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February 2020

Caregivers, Care for Yourselves

Whether you’re caring for a parent with Parkinson’s or an aunt with Alzheimer’s, the first step toward easing the burden of caregiving is to care for yourself. After all, if you feel low, depleted, or stressed all the time, how can you expect to provide the care someone else needs?

Man sitting on floor meditating

Tending to a loved one can be lonely and emotionally draining. Family caregivers have a high risk for depression, and they may be prone to getting sick themselves.

How to avoid problems

Here’s some advice for taking care of yourself:

  • Maintain your physical health. Get at least some exercise each day: You’ll sleep better, lower your stress, and have more energy. Nourish yourself with healthy foods. Get enough sleep. You may feel a difference immediately.

  • Get help for depression. Psychotherapy or medicines (or a combination of the two) can be effective in relieving the pain and sadness.

  • Take time to rest and relax. Read a book. Spend time with a friend. Get out and about. Ask family members, neighbors, friends, and others to help.

  • Be serious about seeking support. If someone asks, “Is there a way I can help?,” bring out a list of errands, meal preparations, or times they can visit with your loved one.

Sources of support

You can also find free or low-cost support through:

  • Eldercare locator. Call 800-677-1116 or visit https://eldercare.acl.gov to find local services for you or your loved one. You can also contact your local senior center, Area Agency on Aging, or local chapter of a national advocacy organization such as the Alzheimer’s Association.

  • Caregiving websites. For plenty of information and practical tips, try www.caregiveraction.org, www.wellspouse.org, or www.caregiver.org.

  • Support groups. Once you get to the first group meeting, you may wonder how you ever got by without the understanding, practical advice, and social support of other caregivers. To find a support group, contact one of the organizations above or ask your healthcare provider or a local hospital.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gonnella, Joseph, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/2/2019
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