We all know that caring for parents is a tough job even though it's also a privilege. We want to do our best to be effective caregivers, and sometimes that means pushing ourselves a little harder than we're used to. While this can be rewarding and gives us a sense of accomplishment, it can also wear us down as caregivers if we're not careful.
A study by Indiana University found that 25% of Alzheimer's caregivers ended up in the emergency room or hospitalized every six months. Caregivers dealing with difficult behavioral issues were more likely to be hospitalized than those only dealing with their relatives' memory problems, which suggests that more stressful eldercare can lead to more serious health risks for caregivers.
When caring for parents, it's important to remember that your health is important too - in a way, caregivers are also patients. The American Heart Association suggests that caregivers do the following in order to keep themselves energized and bolstered with a positive attitude:
- Eat healthy. When caregivers eat good foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, they're better able to handle stress and maintain a steady attitude. On the other hand, if we're providing eldercare and eating lots of processed foods and sweets, we feel worse and respond more negatively to difficult situations.
- Move your body. Even just a short, 10-minute walk per day can boost your immune system and lift your mood. Caregivers should schedule time for exercise among eldercare duties.
- Make time for you. In addition to scheduling time to exercise, caregivers should find time to relax a little bit, too. This could mean listening to music, reading a book, or whatever makes you happy.
- Laugh often. Laughing has been shown to have physical and emotional benefits, so try to find some humor in everyday life and make time to laugh with others.
- Stay organized. If all of your eldercare ducks are in a row, you will be less likely to succumb to stress in challenging situations.
If you are caring for parents, what else do you do to take care of yourself? Share your strategies with other caregivers for handling stress and caring for your physical and emotional health. Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our email list to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on EldercareABC.com.
Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D