If you are among the 50 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. who are caring for your mother, father or other elderly or disabled loved one, you know the daily to-do lists can get long and overwhelming.
There are some simple things you can do to minimize the health risks and ensure that you’ll be strong and healthy enough to help others.
- Turn to technology. Several devices and apps can make it easier and more efficient for you to schedule appointments, access services, products and providers that can help care for your loved one. Nearly a quarter of all caregivers say they’ve found benefit by using an electronic calendar or organizer than can help them streamline appointments, medication schedules and meetings. Social media, Internet and email programs can help you stay connected to your friends and social support network, even though you have little time to visit.
- Take time for yourself. Plan your daily schedule in a way that accommodates some personal downtime. Instead of cleaning the house while your loved one naps, curl up with a good book and take a break yourself. A couple of times each week, contract with a homecare service provider so you can meet a friend for coffee or go for a long walk.
- Get physical. Schedule some time each day for exercise. Find creative, fun ways of getting it done. Take a brisk walk to the park while pushing the person you’re caring for in a wheelchair (the activity and fresh air will be good for both of you). Turn vacuuming into an aerobic activity by moving quickly without a break. Turn on some music and increase your intensity. Dancing for 20-30 minutes strengthens your heart and music is a mood-booster for everyone who listens.
- Outsource when possible. Make a list of the homecare services that could be done by others, and seek out non-medical homecare providers to help ease the load a bit. Part of being committed to caring for your loved one means you must also be committed to caring for yourself.