Caregivers care for themselves with healthy living
Jacqueline Williams | 5/15/2015, 6 a.m.
A few years ago, I left the corporate world and decided to take a different path. I had been practicing yoga for several years and always thought about how rewarding it would be to teach. I was so busy changing my life that I didn’t notice that my parents were getting older. Last year my dad had a stroke and now lives in a nursing home. Our roles have changed and now I am one of his caregivers.
I spend a lot of time making sure that his physical and emotional needs are met. This means working with the healthcare providers at his facility to ensure that his treatment and care plans are fulfilled. My two siblings and I also believe it’s important to try and visit our father every day.
It’s easy to get so caught up in caring for a loved one that you forget to make sure that your own needs are being met. When you burn the candle at both ends, you can burn out. It’s especially important for caregivers to care for themselves so their physical and mental health doesn’t falter.
I always eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to keep colds and flu at bay. I also get plenty of protein to keep myself strong enough to face daily challenges. I meditate and practice yoga about five times per week and highly recommend yoga and meditation as a way to ward off stiffness and injuries. Practicing yoga and meditation can also bring more peace and balance into your day-to-day activities.
Yoga doesn’t have to mean a bunch of complicated poses. You can start by closing your eyes, taking deep, slow breaths and practicing good posture for ten or fifteen minutes a day. People often carry tension in the body and hold their breath without even realizing it. Yoga is a wonderful way to unite the mind, body and spirit.
Being a caregiver can become stressful and sometimes lead to using food or other substances as forms of comfort. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help to avoid this behavior. It’s been my experience that people who are struggling this way will appreciate a supportive hand extended in loving kindness.
You can research and discuss treatment options with your loved ones and help them take the steps needed to move forward. Remind them of how important they are, especially to the people they care for. Help them to recognize the triggers that lead to the addictive behavior and work with them to come up with healthy, positive activities to replace the unhealthy ones. Exercise can keep the mind and body strong and alert as you transition out of negative, addictive behaviors. Also, if it proves necessary, you can help your loved one find a therapist or support group.
Fortunately, we live in a time when helpful information is a lot more accessible but being responsible for someone else’s care and wellness still comes with many challenges.
As a caregiver, my biggest request of the medical community is availability. I realize that doctors are extremely busy and sometimes under stress but no one wants to feel forgotten or ignored. Even if the communication can’t be face to face, an email, call or text can go a long way towards making caregivers and their loved ones feel more secure. In the meantime, take care of yourself and the ones you love.