• Wellness Center
  • How to Take Care of Yourself

    Read about ways to bring yourself some relief from the stress and anxiety that can come from caring for someone you love.

  • Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver. This could mean asking family members and friends to help out, doing things you enjoy, using adult day care services, or getting help from a local home health care agency. Taking these actions can bring you some relief. It also may help keep you from getting ill or depressed.

    How to Take Care of Yourself

    Here are some ways you can take care of yourself:

    • Ask for help when you need it.
    • Join a caregiver's support group.
    • Take breaks each day.
    • Spend time with friends.
    • Keep up with your hobbies and interests.
    • Eat healthy foods.
    • Get exercise as often as you can.
    • See your doctor on a regular basis.
    • Keep your health, legal, and financial information up-to-date.

    Getting help

    Everyone needs help at times. It's okay to ask for help and to take time for yourself. However, many caregivers find it hard to ask for help.

    They feel:

    • They should be able to do everything themselves.
    • That it's not all right to leave the person with someone else.
    • No one will help even if they ask.
    • They don't have the money to pay someone to watch the person for an hour or two.

    If you have trouble asking for help, try using some of the tips below.

    Here are some reminders about how to get help:

    • It's okay for me to ask for help from family, friends, and others. I don't have to do everything myself.
    • I can ask people to help out in specific ways like making a meal, visiting the person, or taking the person out for a short time.
    • I will join a support group to share advice and understanding with other caregivers.
    • I will call for help from home health care or adult day care services when I need it.
    • I will use national and local resources to find out how to pay for some of this help.

    You may want to join a support group of AD caregivers in your area or on the Internet. These groups meet in person or online to share experiences and tips, and to give each other support. Ask your doctor, check online, or look in the phone book for a local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

    You also can call the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center at no cost. The phone number is 1-800-438-4380 or visit www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers.

    Your emotional health

    You may be so busy caring for the person with AD that you don't have time to think about your emotional health. But, you need to. Caring for a person with AD takes a lot of time and effort. Your job as caregiver can become even harder when the person you're caring for gets angry with you, hurts your feelings, or forgets who you are. Sometimes, you may feel really discouraged, sad, lonely, frustrated, confused, or angry. These feelings are normal.

    Here are some things you can say to yourself that might help you feel better:

    • I'm doing the best I can.
    • What I'm doing would be hard for anyone.
    • I'm not perfect, and that's okay.
    • I can't control some things that happen.
    • Sometimes, I just need to do what works for right now.
    • Even when I do everything I can think of, the person with AD will still have problem behaviors because of the illness, not because of what I do.
    • I will enjoy the moments when we can be together in peace.
    • I will try to get help from a counselor if caregiving becomes too much for me.

    Meeting your spiritual needs

    Many of us have spiritual needs. Going to a church, temple, or mosque helps some people meet their spiritual needs. They like to be part of a faith community. For others, simply having a sense that larger forces are at work in the world helps meet their spiritual needs. As the caregiver of a person with AD, you may need more spiritual resources than others do.

    Meeting your spiritual needs can help you:

    • Cope better as a caregiver.
    • Know yourself and your needs.
    • Feel recognized, valued and loved.
    • Become involved with others.
    • Find a sense of balance and peace.

    Other caregivers made these suggestions to help you cope with your feelings and spiritual needs:

    • Understand that you may feel powerless and hopeless about what's happening to the person you care for.
    • Understand that you may feel a sense of loss and sadness.
    • Understand why you've chosen to take care of the person with AD. Ask yourself if you made this choice out of love, loyalty, a sense of duty, a religious obligation, financial concerns, fear, a habit, or self-punishment.
    • Let yourself feel day-to-day "uplifts." These might include good feelings about the person you care for, support from other caring people, or time to spend on your own interests and hobbies.
    • Keep a connection to something "higher than yourself." This may be a belief in a higher power, religious beliefs, or a belief that something good comes from every life experience.

    From the National Institute on Aging: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/CaringAD/caring/how.htm

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