Being a family caregiver can quickly become exhausting, which is why you must take good care of yourself first. This is not a selfish act, but rather an essential one. An exhausted, sick or highly stressed family caregiver is incapable of taking care of others. Here are a few strategies to help safeguard your physical and emotional health:
- Plan to take breaks regularly to meet with people and to do activities that make you happy. If it is impossible for you to be away because you cannot be replaced, you can invite friends and loved ones for simple gatherings at home.
- Allow yourself little moments of happiness on a daily basis such as taking a warm bath or reading a good book.
- Take care of your health by eating well, getting enough sleep and seeing your family physician regularly. It is also important you be active, ideally outdoors, but an exercise bike or exercise videos can also do the trick.
- Heed the signs of depression. You should speak with a loved one or a close friend if you experience any of the following: become irritable; cry over petty upsets or for no reason at all; lose your appetite; stop enjoying the things that usually make you happy; sleep too much or not enough; or if you feel overwhelmed and hopeless. You should never hesitate to speak with a health professional if the situation persists or aggravates.
- You might want to consider joining a support group for family caregivers, because the experience of some can be of great help to others. You can search the internet for groups in your area or contact your local CLSC. You can also seek advice from a health professional.
- Ask for help! You can start by making a list of tasks you are unable to accomplish by yourself and share it with your family, friends or neighbours. Most of us are happy to help loved ones when they are in dire need. After all, would you not do the same for them? Sometimes, all you need to do to get help is simply ask.