Medical advances will give many of us more years, but a longer life expectancy often brings about challenges. Changes happen in our bodies and minds. We may slow down or have problems with tasks we’ve been doing most of our lives. Enter the caregiver.

A caregiver assists a person who is unable to perform certain tasks due to illness, frailty or possibly a disability. A caregiver may offer help with simple tasks like bringing in the mail or doing laundry or one might manage a more complex system such as keeping a house running smoothly: paying bills, cooking meals, driving, shopping, scheduling and administering medication.

Due to the progressive nature of many health issues, a caregiver’s job usually gets more complex and time consuming, placing more demands on their own health and welfare. Well-meaning caregivers often work themselves to a frazzle putting all their energy into their beloved family member. This seems commendable but at what cost? Enter caregiver burnout.

Caregiver burnout is common and the effects often manifest in unhealthy ways such as sleep disruption, mood changes, eating irregularities, etc.

First, caregivers must care for themselves and not be afraid to ask for, or even hire, help. In the long run, it’s critical for everyone involved. Here is a quick list of ways a caregiver can insure that he or she is giving the best by caring for themselves first.

  • Eat well and snack well. Eating a balanced diet with lean proteins, whole grains, colorful fruits and vegetables, while drinking plenty of water is important for fueling your body and min. Don’t skip this important step because you think you don’t have time.
  • Get some exercise each day. Just taking a 10-20 minute walk each day can help you recharge and refocus. Spend the time breathing deeply and shedding some worries while setting a pace around the house or around the block.
  • Sleep well. Although not always easy when life is stressful, sleeping is nature’s way of restoring what was lost during the day. Eating well and exercising will help with this as well.
  • Don’t go it alone. Find a support group. It’s important to know you are not alone and support group facilitators can offer tools for taking some stress out of long-term care.

Remember, “Take time for yourself. Recreation is not a luxury, it is a necessary time to re-create—to renew yourself.”