Maintaining your health and wellness is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver.
Until you begin caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, you may not realize how much physical, mental, and emotional support they need. As you begin your caregiver journey, you will quickly learn it is a rewarding but very challenging role.
At Kensington Place Redwood City, we understand how critical it is that caregivers have a way to find support and resources to protect their own mental health. This is why we partnered with Hilarity for Charity (HFC) to present CareCon.
CareCon is a free, virtual event hosted by Lauren Miller Logan. Its purpose — to empower, inspire, and educate caregivers. With panel conversations and expert-led workshops, those who attended found reliable resources, connections, and tips to help them maintain their health.
If you missed the virtual event, don’t worry! Let’s dive into maintaining caregiver wellness and touch on where to find resources for help.
Finding the Balance Between Caregiving and Self-Care
There will be days that are overwhelming, and you will find it difficult to care for your senior loved one, much less make time for yourself. Especially when caring for a senior with a memory disease.
Creating a routine, and staying organized, will help you manage your time efficiently and make it easier for you to schedule time for yourself.
To be a good caregiver, you must engage in self-care. Those who neglect their needs become frustrated, resentful, and depressed far more often than those who take breaks to care for themselves.
The Best Way to Reduce Caregiver Stress
Neglecting your health puts you at risk for many diseases and illnesses. This is why caregivers must keep their caregiver stress at a minimum.
Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can benefit your mental and physical health. During a workout, your body releases endorphins, making you feel more relaxed and happier. If you don’t enjoy running or walking, you can try yoga, meditation, tai chi, or other physical activities.
Eating a well-balanced diet can help your brain, heart, and overall health. Planning for snacks and meals can prevent you from grabbing easily accessible junk food. You could even plan meals with the loved one you care for to ensure they get the nutrition they need.
Catch Some Zzz’s
A lack of sleep can significantly affect your health. Creating a nightly ritual can help you make sleep a part of your self-care routine. Adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night for the best health results.
Learn to Say No
It can be difficult to tell family members, friends, or your employer no, but learning to say no has benefits. It gives you more time to engage in self-care, build confidence, and reduce stress.
Commit to a Class or New Hobby
Make it a priority to spend time doing things you love. Maybe you enjoy reading, painting, or playing an instrument. Or perhaps, you would love to learn a new skill. Either way, schedule time to do something you enjoy.
If you decide to learn an instrument, you could even use this skill to connect with your loved one. At CareCon, we discussed the benefits of using music for memory and bonding.
Don’t Do it Alone
Taking care of a loved one and meeting their demands is too much for one person to face alone. It could be due to pride, guilt, or protective instinct, but some caregivers don’t accept help from others.
While at first, it may make you anxious to share your caregiving duties, it will help you focus on your own needs.
Enlisting Family Members for Help
Accept help from family members or friends.
Ask them if they could sit with your loved one for an hour or two. This is how you will make time for yourself to run errands, exercise, socialize, or just relax.
Find Caregiving Resources
There are also care services and respite services available in most communities. Using one of these services gives you and your loved one a break from each other, which helps you maintain a healthy bond.
Find Support Groups
Joining a support group enables you to connect with other people experiencing similar conditions. You can share stories, caregiving tips, and receive support from others who know what you are going through. This offers socialization opportunities and can help you feel less isolated.
Kensington Place Redwood City offers a variety of virtual sessions and resources, such as our event series with Dr. Marsha Nelson or Dr. Anya Parpura, that reminds attendees that true caregiving begins with loving yourself.
Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
It is essential that you pay attention to what your body, mind, and soul are telling you. If you are beginning to feel physically or emotionally exhausted, you are likely experiencing caregiver burnout.
Signs to look out for include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling isolated, misunderstood, or alone
- Sleeping difficulties
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Feeling exhausted most of the time
- Losing interest in things you once enjoyed
- Feeling irritable
- Becoming easily angered
- Feeling worried or sad
- Constant headaches or body aches
- Engaging in unhealthy behaviors like smoking or drinking alcohol
How Does Caregiving Affect the Caregiver
Being a caregiver is a selfless and honorable job, but it is associated with negative risks and consequences.
The psychological health of family members and friends of caregivers may suffer negatively too if a caregiver is not careful.
The most common health problems caregivers are susceptible to when they neglect their needs and health include:
- Excess weight and obesity
- Heart disease
- Problems with short-term memory and focusing
Caregiver Support Services
Finding a caregiver support group can help a caregiver feel more empowered, in control, confident, and less alone.
One way you can find support groups is to reach out to a health care professional, such as your family physician or therapist. Memory care communities, such as Kensington Place Redwood City, also host support groups and events geared towards providing caregivers with the resources they need.
To find resources now, there are many websites available to caregivers. Below are just a handful of the many options out there.
Family Caregiver Alliance: Caregiver Health
The Kensington Place Redwood City: Konnect – (our own online hub for event recordings, workshops, and a wide variety of activities)
Office on Women’s Health: Caregiver Stress
A Community that Supports Seniors and Empowers Caregivers
Kensington Place Redwood City is a memory care community, located in San Mateo County, California.
We understand it can be difficult to reach out for help and trust others with your senior loved one.
Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own. We hope this makes it easier for caregivers to transition their loved ones to our beautiful and cozy homes.
Our residents experience high-acuity care, opportunities to engage in life-enrichment activities, enjoy exquisite food prepared by our dining team, and maintain their health by receiving rehabilitation.
If you are interested in learning more about our homes and the services we offer our residents and caregivers, reach out to us today.