Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver. This could mean asking family members and friends to help out, doing things you enjoy, using adult day care services, or getting help from a local home health care agency. Taking these actions can bring you some relief. It also may help keep you from getting ill or depressed.
How to Take Care of Yourself
Here are some ways you can take care of yourself:
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Join a caregiver's support group.
- Take breaks each day.
- Spend time with friends.
- Keep up with your hobbies and interests.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Get exercise as often as you can.
- See your doctor on a regular basis.
- Keep your health, legal, and financial information up-to-date.
Everyone needs help at times. It's okay to ask for help and to take time for yourself. However, many caregivers find it hard to ask for help. You may feel:
- You should be able to do everything yourself
- That it's not all right to leave the person with someone else
- No one will help even if you ask
- You don't have the money to pay someone to watch the person for an hour or two
If you have trouble asking for help, try using some of the tips below:
- It's okay to ask for help from family, friends, and others. I don't have to do everything myself.
- Ask people to help out in specific ways like making a meal, visiting the person, or taking the person out for a short time.
- Join a support group to share advice and understanding with other caregivers.
- Call for help from home health care or adult day care services when you need it.
- Use national and local resources to find out how to pay for some of this help.
You may want to join a support group of AD caregivers in your area or on the Internet. These groups meet in person or online to share experiences and tips, and to give each other support. Ask your doctor, check online, or look in the phone book for a local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
If you are a veteran or caring for one, the Veterans Administration might be of help to you. To learn more, visit its caregivers' website at www.caregiver.va.gov . You might also call its toll-free support line at 1-855-260-3274.
You also can call the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center at no cost. The phone number is 1-800-438-4380. Visit on the Internet at www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers . For more information on how to get help, see "When You Need Help" .
Your emotional health
You may be busy caring for the person with AD and don't take time to think about your emotional health. But, you need to. Caring for a person with AD takes a lot of time and effort. Your job as caregiver can become even harder when the person you're caring for gets angry with you, hurts your feelings, or forgets who you are. Sometimes, you may feel really discouraged, sad, lonely, frustrated, confused, or angry. These feelings are normal.
Here are some things you can say to yourself that might help you feel better:
- I'm doing the best I can.
- What I'm doing would be hard for anyone.
- I'm not perfect, and that's okay.
- I can't control some things that happen.
- Sometimes, I just need to do what works for right now.
- Even when I do everything I can think of, the person with AD will still have problem behaviors because of the illness, not because of what I do.
- I will enjoy the moments when we can be together in peace.
- I will try to get help from a counselor if caregiving becomes too much for me.
"He has given me so much all my life, and now he can only take. Yet his presence now, as always, provides deep comfort to my soul. Now I give to him in every way I can. I realize that my giving to him is a result of his giving to me: emotional support, love, spiritual direction, wisdom, and advice."
Meeting your spiritual needs
Many of us have spiritual needs. Going to a church, temple, or mosque helps some people meet their spiritual needs. They like to be part of a faith community. For others, simply having a sense that larger forces are at work in the world helps meet their spiritual needs. As the caregiver of a person with AD, you may need more spiritual resources than others do.
Meeting your spiritual needs can help you:
- Cope better as a caregiver
- Know yourself and your needs
- Feel recognized, valued and loved
- Become involved with others
- Find a sense of balance and peace
"I feel lonely sometimes. I spend almost all of my time taking care of Mom. Going to church and being with friends helps me feel better."
Other caregivers made these suggestions to help you cope with your feelings and spiritual needs:
- Understand that you may feel powerless and hopeless about what's happening to the person you care for.
- Understand that you may feel a sense of loss and sadness.
- Understand why you've chosen to take care of the person with AD. Ask yourself if you made this choice out of love, loyalty, a sense of duty, a religious obligation, financial concerns, fear, a habit, or self-punishment.
- Let yourself feel day-to-day "uplifts." These might include good feelings about the person you care for, support from other caring people, or time to spend on your own interests and hobbies.
- Keep a connection to something "higher than yourself." This may be a belief in a higher power, religious beliefs, or a belief that something good comes from every life experience.