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Your Needs

Physical Needs

Caregiving can take a serious toll on your health, even if you did not have any previous medical problems. Poor eating habits, lack of sleep, and continuous stress can run you down and put you at risk for fatigue, injury, and illness. However, there are some important strategies that can help you to maintain your health:

Diet
Fighting Fatigue
Exercise
Relaxation

Diet

As a caregiver, it is not uncommon to get so busy that you forget to eat. Other times, you may find that it is easiest to grab a snack or fast food on the run. While these things are okay once in a while, you should try not to make a habit out of them. Your body needs nutritious meals to use as fuel to keep you going.

Tips for proper eating

Eat 3 well-balanced meals per day, including breads and cereals, milk and cheese, fruits and vegetables, and lean meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.
Cut down on fatty foods, sugar, and alcoholic beverages.
Eat healthy snacks in between meals (e.g. fruit, vegetables, low-fat cheese, yogurt, cereals, and crackers).
Drink enough water (6-8 glasses per day).
Avoid drinking too much caffeine, such as soda, coffee, and tea.

For more information on nutrition or a referral to a dietician in your area, contact:

The American Dietetic Association/National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics
216 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60606
(800) 336-1655 (Consumer Hotline)
www.eatright.org

Fighting Fatigue

Waking up numerous times in the middle of the night to help the patient... Getting up early and going to bed late in order to get everything done... Staying up all night with a patient who can't sleep... All of these situations can cause serious disruptions to your sleep and can lead to exhaustion.  Sleep restores your body and mind. So, it is important for you to get enough rest in order to be able to maintain proper physical and emotional functioning. Ideally, you should be getting at least 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.

Tips to fight fatigue:

Try to schedule your sleep around the patient's sleeping pattern (e.g. if the patient sleeps during the day, take a nap at the same time).
Rest when you get tired.
Avoid caffeine before bedtime so that you don't have trouble falling asleep.
Get outside help for the evenings if you are unable to sleep because the patient is up a lot during the night.
Every so often, recruit a friend or family member to stay over and care for the patient while you get some uninterrupted sleep.

The Benefits of Exercise

Exercise has many benefits, including lowering blood pressure, easing depression and anxiety, and decreasing physical and mental tension. Exercise can help you ease your mind, take a break from the patient, and stay in shape to foster good health. As a caregiver, you confront a great deal of physical and emotional stress that can build up if not properly addressed. Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed.

Tips for exercising:

Consult with your doctor to determine an exercise regimen that will be right for you. Walking and swimming are two great forms of low-impact exercise.
No amount of exercise is too little, but it is suggested that you work out at least 3 times per week for at least 20 minutes each time.
Be sure to stretch your muscles before and after you work out.
If possible, try to work out with a partner (especially the patient) who can help keep you motivated.
Pick a form of exercise that you enjoy.
Listen to your favorite music to keep you going while you are working out.
Choose a workout that is convenient so that you are more likely to stick with it.

Finding Time to Relax

Taking a little time to relax can help reduce the physical and emotional stress that come with caregiving. As little as 10 minutes of relaxation per day can help you feel more calm, rested, and able to cope with the stresses in your life. Here are some helpful relaxation techniques.

Tips for relaxation:

Practice! Learning how to relax is a skill that takes time and practice.  Do it as often as you can until you feel comfortable with the technique.
Take time out at least once per day to relax, do something you enjoy, and get your mind off the illness.
Do relaxation exercises in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
Practice relaxation at times when the patient is asleep or does not need you.
Take the phone off the hook and put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.
Read a book, watch TV, or listen to music. These can serve as relaxing breaks from the demands of caregiving.
Schedule some time to pamper yourself by getting a massage, facial, or something else you enjoy.

 

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