How to stay healthy as a caregiver

elderly care alzheimer'sBeing the the primary caregiver for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is, without a doubt, a demanding job. There’re the time constraints brought on by balancing work, family and caregiving — not to mention the physical and emotional strains that come in tow. That’s why it’s important to take care of yourself. If you do, you and the loved one you’re caring for will both be happier.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers some tips on staying healthy as a caregiver:

See a doctor

Check in regularly with your doctor. A physician can help you with any problems you might be having related to exhaustion, stress, sleeping problems and other changes in behaviors. Ignoring these symptoms can lead to declines in physical and mental health.

Alz.org recommends getting a seasonal flu shot if you’re caring for someone in late-stage Alzheimer’s, as the vaccination protects both you and your loved one.

Stay physically active

Make sure you find the time to exercise regularly. It will help relieve stress, prevent disease and, in general, make you feel good.

  • Find friends and family to offer caregiving help so you can get out and move. Even short amounts of time — 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week — helps immensely.
  • Don’t be afraid to exercise at home. Get a stationary bike or yoga mat and do your exercises while your loved one is napping.

Develop healthy eating habits

Change your diet so you eat regular, heart-healthy meals rich in healthy fats, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Alz.org recommends trying a Mediterranean diet.

Manage your stress

Stress affects your body and emotions negatively in several ways. Make sure to actively manage your stress and find ways to relax when necessary. Many caregivers tend to feel guilty for their loved one’s condition, but Alz.org notes that you should give yourself credit where it’s due, grieve the losses and focus on the positives.

Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help. Whether it’s a friend or family member, support group and professional care provider focused on elderly care, there’s always someone to talk to.

Related: Signs of caregiver stress

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