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If you’re taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer's – a spouse, parent or sibling – you know how exhausting it can be, both physically and emotionally. You’re under a lot of stress and your responsibilities can be extremely taxing. You may feel overwhelmed, but the truth is, if you don’t take care of yourself, you run the risk of becoming ill. Then what?
In order to provide your loved one with the best possible care, you have to learn how to balance your caregiving with your own health and happiness. It can be done! And both you and your loved one will benefit. Here are some tips to help:
Make sure you have your annual physical exams and other appropriates tests (mammograms, prostate exams, etc.). As a caregiver, you’re under stress, and that affects your immune system. Get a flu shot. Wash your hands frequently. Take vitamins. Beyond your physical wellness, keep track of your mental wellbeing too. Caregivers are two times more likely to suffer from depression than non-caregivers. If you notice you’re feeling down, getting angry for no reason, or losing interest in things you normally enjoy, seek help.
Whether you’re taking care of a loved one full-time, or balancing care giving with a full time job, you must find some time for yourself every day – even if it’s only 20 minutes! You need – and deserve – time when your only focus is on yourself.
As a caregiver, you’re busy, but don’t let lack of time affect your food choices. Stay away from fast, fatty foods or junk foods that have minimal, if any, nutritional value. Don’t skip meals. A little planning and a weekly trip to the grocery store are all it takes. Choose whole grain breads. Fruits and vegetables for quick, healthy snacks. Make your dinner at home. If you don’t have time to cook, skip the drive-thru and order in from a restaurant that offers healthy choices.
You can’t do it all. There are many resources available for both care and support. Find the ones in your area and use them. From adult day care programs for your loved one to a support group for you, there are options for finding the help you need.
There will come a time when you – and your loved one – will need more help. Be proactive. Before that time comes, do your research on local memory support programs. Visit the Memory Care Communities in your area. Talk to the staff and learn about the memory support services they offer for residents with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. Some Assisted Living residences also offer memory care. For example, Inn on the Pond has its own Inspirations Memory Care program specifically developed to provide those with Alzheimer’s and dementia a balance of independence, dignity and fulfillment with safety and security.