Taking Care of Yourself
It is common for caregivers to put their loved ones' needs first and forget to tend to their own health. However, taking care of your personal needs is an important part of being an effective caregiver for someone else.
The following are some self-care guidelines that can help you stay healthy and help improve your ability to provide care:
Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to exhaustion, irritability, illness and stress. If you are having trouble sleeping through the night, talk to your doctor.
Visit the doctor regularly. You may be used to talking to the rheumatologist about your loved one’s health, but remember to visit your own doctor on a regular basis. When you’re in good health, your loved one will benefit.
Manage stress. Try to identify sources of stress, and find ways to reduce or even eliminate these stressors. Coping methods may be as simple as taking a walk, enjoying a hobby, talking to a good friend or writing in a journal.
Exercise. Even a little exercise every day can help you get better sleep, reduce stress and depression and increase energy levels.
Ask for help. Caregivers may sometimes be reluctant to ask for help or even accept it when others offer. Asking for help when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed — or if you just want some time to yourself — can have a positive effect on your health, well-being and ability to provide care to your loved one.
As a caregiver, you know the emotional toll that taking care of a loved one can have. In trying to provide your loved one with the best care possible, you may be sacrificing your own physical and emotional needs. There will be times when you are exhausted, worried, stressed or sad. These feelings can put you at risk for a much more serious condition, clinical depression.
If you think that you may be clinically depressed, talk to your doctor. He or she can determine whether you need treatment and/or recommend a mental health professional.
The following organizations are good sources of information on taking care of your loved one and, more importantly, taking care of yourself.
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