In many cases an elderly parent or loved one is diagnosed with a health condition, and a family member steps in to provide care. Without exercising self-care, caregivers can end up in the hospital next to the person the are supposed to be providing care for.
Ongoing stress, combined with the physical and emotional demands of providing care for a loved one, can take its toll on the body and mind.
Caregivers need regular breaks and opportunities to take time for themselves to avoid developing serious health problems of their own.
Family caregivers that are simultaneously caring for an elderly parent, while raising a family and holding down a job, are at particularly high risk for burnout. People caught in the middle, caring for children as well as older relatives, are what is known as the sandwich generation.
Many caregivers in situations like this report a variety of issues that lead to poor overall health.
Caregiving can have Detrimental Effects on Health
Caregivers that neglect to make time for themselves to engage in self-care practices are at higher risk for illness and disease.
Some of the factors that contribute to declining health for caregivers, may include:
- Lack of sleep
- Inactive lifestyle
- Poor nutrition
- Not taking care of themselves when sick
- Not going to the doctor
Lack of Sleep
It is easy for caregivers to become sleep deprived when there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done.
A hectic schedule, coupled with worry about the health status of an aging loved one, can make it difficult to get enough hours of quality sleep.
Another side effect of a busy schedule is no time for exercise. Regular physical exercise is crucial for maintaining overall health.
Physical activity helps boost the immune system, and the endorphins released during exercise can help reduce stress and elevate the mood.
People that live on the go often engage in unhealthy eating habits. Processed and fried foods are quick and easy, but offer little nutritional value to provide the energy to tackle your daily tasks.
Aside from offering next to no nutritional benefit, these unwholesome foods can directly impact health in a negative way. Foods high in fat, sugar, and salt can lead to health problems like:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
Lack of Care when Sick
Caregivers that are living this type of strenuous lifestyle are more likely to contract colds, flus, and other aliments due to a weakened immune system.
Then when they do get sick, they tend to shrug it off like its nothing instead of properly caring for their own illnesses.
Not Visiting the Doctor
Most of the health focus is often placed on the elderly relative being cared for, rather then the people providing care.
However, caregivers also need to stay on top their health situation and make sure to keep up with medical appointments and check ups.
If a caregiver is having health problems of their own, they are not going to be able to provide effective care for anyone else.
Self-Care Suggestions for Caregivers in Ottawa
There are several ways caregivers can take an active approach to maintaining and improving health.
Some self-care suggestions for caregivers, may include:
- Stress management
- Healthy habits
- Set goals
Finding ways to reduce personal stress is one the most effective self-care practices caregivers can engage in.
The first step is to identify sources of stress and make the necessary adjustments.
Some typical causes of stress for caregivers are:
- Feeling overwhelmed – too much responsibility
- Feelings of resentment – maybe having to take on tasks they didn’t ask for
- Feeling discouraged – if care practices are not as effective as hoped
- Dealing with extreme health conditions like dementia or chronic illness can be stressful
Respite caregivers from a professional home care agency can provide relief for family caregivers to help with stress management.
Leading a healthy lifestyle is another good way to practice self-care. Some recommended healthy lifestyle practices, include:
- Nutritious diet
- Consistent exercise
- Regular social activity
- Quality sleep
- Mindful practices like yoga, tai chi, or meditation
Setting goals for your caregiving situation can help make the process more manageable and less stressful.
A goal could be as simple as setting aside 30 to 60 minutes a day to focus on your own needs. Once you get into the habit of making time for yourself, it will become a part of your regular routine.