February is American Heart Month and throughout the month you may have seen a number of articles across the web talking about heart health for seniors, heart health for women, heart health for men, and more. What you probably haven’t seen is an article dedicated to talking about heart health for caregivers.
Many caregivers have told me that they began to neglect their own health when they started taking care of mom or dad. They didn’t take time out to focus on their own needs and that, over time, made it more difficult for them to handle the needs of the loved one in their care. Here is a list of eleven things that every caregiver should do to ensure their own heart health.
11 things that every caregiver should do:
- Stay on a diet of heart-healthy foods. This isn’t just good advice for caregivers, but it is especially important as they provide more energy, keep your brain going, and help prevent other significant health problems. Try not to always be eating on the go, but, if you must, plan ahead and pick nutritious foods.
- Get a little “Me-time” every day. Even if it is just 15-30 minutes, take time for an activity that you enjoy. Maybe it is reading a book, listening to music, taking a hot bath or something else. Do what makes you happy and helps you reduce stress.
- Get moving with some exercise. Daily, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity will actually give you more energy and reduce stress. Exercise will help keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check and help you stay at a healthy weight. 30 minutes a day isn’t that much to ask. Walk, run, dance, or whatever you’ll enjoy that gets your heart rate up.
- Every two weeks, take a moment to review and update the information you have provided your medical alert monitoring company. You are more likely to take the time away that you need if you feel comfortable with your medical alert service provider and know that they have the information necessary in case of an emergency.
- Leave the house. Get out at least once a week to go somewhere you enjoy. This does not include the standard errands. Drop by a local coffee shop, attend events, go to a movie, take a class, visit a friend or just go for a walk in the park. If your loved one needs constant attention, ask someone for help. You need time off.
- Laugh it up. Everyone always say that laughter is the best medicine and it really does help. I know that your situation may not seem very funny, but do you best to find humor in your daily routine. Have your loved one tell you a joke and don’t be afraid to laugh out loud with them. A little humor goes a long way in combatting depression.
- Depression is not something you just have to deal with or something that you’ll get over at some point. Take depression seriously and treat it. Recognize the signs and symptoms and do something about it as soon as it starts. If you think you may be depressed, get professional help. You are no good to your loved one if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
- No really, take care of yourself first. Make sure you never skip out on your medical or dental appointments. Do whatever it takes to keep from getting sick. If you’re sick, you won’t be much help as a caregiver and you’ll risk spreading the disease to them. One last time: Take care of your health.
- And also, take care of your business. As a caregiver, you have a mountain of things that will provide additional stress in your life. Do what you can to stay financially sound. Make sure your checkbook is balanced, focus on work if you need to work, spend time with family and express financial concerns. Whatever you do, don’t stop living and planning for the future. If you focus entirely on your caregiver responsibilities, it will be more difficult to adjust and move on when the time comes.
- Keep up with the outside world, even if it’s just by reading articles online and calling someone on the phone each day. Do not isolate yourself; take time to focus on your network of colleagues, friends, and family. Talk to people about anything other than your current caregiving situation. What would you talk about if you weren’t a caregiver? Discuss it.
- Always, always, always, be positive. This one probably should have gone at the very top of this list, but ending with it might help you to remember. You need to stay positive. You need to freely admit your limitations. You need to know that what’s happening to your loved one is not your fault. It is perfectly fine to get angry, or feel guilty, or be sad, but when you do, take a break.
Guest post by Justin Noland from One Call Alert