Staying at home during a pandemic is tough. Staying at home in the role of a caregiver is even tougher. That’s why self-care is the greatest gift caregivers can give themselves this holiday season.
It may surprise you to learn that 53 million Americans – nearly one in five – serve as unpaid caregivers at home, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. In addition, there are currently 1.5 million CNAs (certified nursing assistants) who work in long-term care, reports the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. These hardworking individuals help residents – or family members — with the activities of daily living. While caregiving can be engaging and fulfilling, it also can be stressful and demanding. That’s why it’s just as important for caregivers to prioritize their own self-care. Doing so will have powerful positive effects on your energy and mood and make you a better caregiver.
Tips for Self-Care
Here’s how you can practice self-care this holiday season.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. The holidays are filled with treats and sweets, and it’s tempting to overindulge. Plan ahead for healthy treats. Maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet to feel your best.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity is important for our health. Being physically active helps improve our balance and flexibility, reducing the risk of falls. Exercise strengthens our heart and lungs. It also helps reduce feelings of anxiety or depression. For all these reasons, it’s good to schedule some sort of exercise daily even if it’s just a short walk.
- Take time to yourself to relax. Even if you’re a full-time, live-in caregiver, you need time for yourself to recharge. Schedule a time to read, meditate, take a hot bath, or simply relax. Even short 10-minute breaks throughout the day can help.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep helps restore our bodies, reduce stress and decrease anxiety. Healthy adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Make sure you’re well rested this holiday season.
- Connect with others. You may have to stay at home, but you don’t have to remain isolated. Schedule time to connect with others safely. Playing games over video chat or just catching up on a phone call will go a long way toward improving your mood.
Be Aware of Caregiver Burnout
The winter months pose an especially tough time to be a caregiver. With inclement weather and an increase in colds and flu, as well as Covid-19, it’s hard to get out of the house. Being in the same home 24/7—even with someone whom you care about—can take its toll.
Know the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout:
- Anger at your loved one; moodiness and irritability
- Exhaustion, preventing you from completing daily tasks
- Sleeplessness, worrying about your loved one
- Anxiety about how you’ll care for your loved one if he/she becomes worse
- Social withdrawal from the activities you used to enjoy
Remember that you’re not in this alone. Reach out to family, friends and community resources. It could be as simple as arranging for someone to provide a meal or spend some time with your loved one.
The Simon & Sylvia Zisman Seashore Gardens Living Center (SGLC) is a nonprofit home for the aged, guided by Jewish tradition, law, and charity, dedicated to enriching the quality of life for its residents. The 125,000 square foot senior Living Center features a continuum of services which include assisted living, short and long term nursing care, Alzheimer’s care, respite care and full rehabilitation services all under one roof. For more information, visit www.seashoregardens.org.