This current generation of baby-boomers is being stretched to the limit! Almost without warning, they became the familial caregivers. Suddenly many are caught between grandchildren who need care while their parents work and elderly parents who have become, in essence, a new generation of children (requiring ever increasing time and energy). In the end, exhausted boomers have little time to take care of themselves. And as anyone can guess, well-rested, happy caregivers are crucial to the job, but as demands for time increases, caregiver’s wellness and happiness rates often decrease. Even the American Medical Association has weighed in on this growing problem — the health of this generation of caregivers. They say that caregivers face incredible stress and are at risk for psychological and physical problems. Side effects of caregiving include general burnout, self-neglect, depression, family conflicts and more. Therefore, it is essential for any caregiver to find that balance in the “their time/my time” equilibrium. The following are some great habits that “happy caregivers” practice to ensure they stay healthy so wellness is a priority in their own lives.
Take care of both your mind and body. Caregivers need to “recharge” themselves, both physically and mentally. Take part in exercise, educational, and relaxation activities.
Pay close attention to your own health. Studies show that a full 70% of caregivers become sick with some type of health issue, and 50% of caregivers die before the person to whom they’re providing care.
Find a strong support group. Spend time with family and friends. Vent, if you need to…it is healthy! If you feel the need, find a counselor to help sort out frustrations.
Eat a nutritious diet. It keeps energy levels up and health risks at bay. Seniors need to eat healthy too. Prepare healthy meals, high in protein, fruits, and vegetables…for both of you.
Exercise, exercise, exercise. We can’t stress this enough. Staying active physically helps to reduce your stress and improve your mood! It’s the ideal way to ward off health issues and diseases that can put a caregiver’s job at risk.
Try “mindful meditation.” Consider activities that help you relax mentally. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and music are just some of the ways to help a caregiver slow down, and put things into perspective.
Try something new – just for you. Take a class, try a new hobby, but do it just for you.
Take some time off. Find a sub, ask a family member, or even hire someone. For a “time off” for both of you, try one of the many senior day care centers. Odds are, if physically able, your senior would enjoy a day out too. But remember – this is YOUR time – not time to run errands for everyone else!
Caring for a senior can be very challenging and stressful, but remember you are spending your time making someone else’s life easier. Try to be grateful and be sure to take care of yourself as well!