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Being a Healthy Caregiver
As a caregiver, you may find yourself with so many responsibilities that you neglect taking good care of yourself. But the best thing you can do for the person you are caring for is stay physically and emotionally strong. Here's how:
Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted. Don't do it alone. Seek support from family, friends, your faith community and the Alzheimer's Association.
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Be sure to visit your physician regularly (at least annually), and listen to what your body is telling you. Any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, or changes in appetite or behavior should be taken seriously. Ignoring these symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.
If you are caring for someone in the late-stages of Alzheimer's, talk to your health care provider about the seasonal flu shot. Being vaccinated protects both you and the person you are caring for.
No doubt you know that exercise is an important part of staying healthy — it can help relieve stress, prevent disease and make you feel good. But finding the time to exercise is another story.
Use these tips:
- Take friends and family members up on their offers to help.
You can get in a good workout in a short amount of time — even a 30 minute break. Use our Care Team Calendar to help coordinate a schedule where you have breaks to exercise and take care of your health.
- Start small.
While it is recommended that you get 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, even 10 minutes a day can help. Fit in what you can, and work toward a goal.
When the person with dementia naps, pull out a yoga mat and stretch, set up a stationary bike, or try exercise tapes.
- Find something you love.
If you enjoy the activity, it will be easier to make it a habit.
There also are many ways you can be active with the person with dementia. Here are a few ideas:
- Take a walk together outside to enjoy the fresh air
- Go to the mall and take a stroll indoors
- Do seated exercises at home
- Dance together to favorite music
- Garden or do other routine activities that you both enjoy
Heart-healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, are good for overall health and may help protect the brain. A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats. Try new recipes and involve the person with dementia.
Need ideas on how to go healthy?
Try these resources:
- Nutrition: Tips for Improving Your Health (American Academy of Family Physicians)
- Eat Right Nutrition Tips (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Healthy Breakfast: Quick, Flexible Options to Grab at Home (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
Caregiver Stress Check
Alzheimer caregivers frequently report high levels of stress. Take our quiz and get resources to help.
- Manage your level of stress.
Stress can cause physical problems (blurred vision, stomach irritation, high blood pressure) and changes in behavior (irritability, lack of concentration, change in appetite). Note your symptoms and discuss with a doctor, as needed. Try to find relaxation techniques that work for you. Learn more.
- Be realistic.
The care you give does make a difference, but many behaviors can't be controlled. Grieve the losses, focus on positive times as they arise, and enjoy good memories.
- Know you're doing your best.
Remember that the care you provide makes a difference and that you are doing the best you can. You may feel guilty because you can’t do more, but individual care needs change as Alzheimer’s progresses. You can’t promise how care will be delivered, but you can make sure that the person with the disease is well cared for and safe. For support and encouragement, join ALZConnected, our online caregiver community.
- Take a break.
It's normal to need a break from caregiving duties. No one can do it all by themselves. Look into respite care to allow time to take care of yourself.
- Accept changes as they occur.
People with Alzheimer’s disease change over time and so do their needs. They may require care beyond what you can provide on your own. Becoming aware of community resources and care options — from home care services to residential care — can make the transition easier. So will the support and assistance of those around you.
We Can Help
Caregiving can be overwhelming, but you aren't alone. The Alzheimer's Association is here to help.