A recent study by Boston University researchers provided a clue to how caregivers might be able to counteract the toll that eldercare takes on them. The study, supported by the National Institute on Aging, showed that caregivers who were more physically active showed higher mobility rates and lower mortality rates.
In other words, caregivers who performed more physical activity were able to move better and were less likely to die than caregivers who were not physically active. As caregivers, how can you use this information to enhance your well-being while providing eldercare?
Schedule Activity During Eldercare
One way for caregivers to get more physical activity is to schedule exercise into the eldercare schedule. Depending on your parent's health concerns, the two of you might enjoy a walk together, a swim, gardening, or doing simple chores around the house. This is a great way to incorporate physical activity into the caregiving routine.
Take Some Time for Yourself
If you can, join an exercise class that you'll enjoy, such as dance, yoga, or water aerobics, and find a family member or friend to provide eldercare during that time. You can also try contacting your local Area Agency on Aging to see if any respite services are available to give you a few hours a week to attend your class. To find your local agency, use the Eldercare Locator.
Give Yourself Credit for the Small Stuff
As a caregiver, you might already be physically active during the day and not even realize it. Do you use the stairs regularly while providing eldercare? Do you need to lift your parent or assist him or her when moving? During caregiving, is your day filled with cleaning, shopping, cooking, and other tasks? If you're moving during caregiving, then give yourself credit for these activities. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to do more, such as the previous suggestions describe, but give yourself a pat on the back for what you are doing now as an active caregiver.
Staying physically active is good for everyone, but the recent research by Boston University suggests that physical activity can be especially good for caregivers and could buffer the stresses of caregiving. Are you a physically active caregiver? If so, how do you incorporate physical activity into your busy eldercare days? Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our RSS Feed to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on EldercareABC.com.
--Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D