Being an Alzheimer’s caregiver means taking on a lot of responsibilities. Sometimes you may be so preoccupied with caring for your loved one that you neglect your own health. Here are some tips to stay healthy as a caregiver:
Visit the doctor:
Visit the doctor at least once a year and report any changes in appetite, behavior, sleep, stress or fatigue. Also, if your loved one is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, make sure you get the seasonal flu shot. This protects both you and your loved one from the flu.
Exercise helps relieve stress and prevent disease, but finding the time for it is hard when you’re a caregiver. Take up offers of help from friends and family to schedule a little time for exercise. Start small: even just 10 minutes a day can help. Find a habit you like and can do at home.
Your loved one can join you on some exercise activities. Take a stroll somewhere outside. Do seated exercises at home or dance to favorite music. Set up a garden to work on together.
Eat heart-healthy food, such as the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil. Involve your loved one as well; the Mediterranean diet can protect the brain.
Develop coping strategies:
Stay mindful of your stress and emotional responses. Find some good ways to relax. It is normal to need a break; being a caregiver is not easy, because no matter how hard you try, dementia takes its toll. Grieve the losses and enjoy the good times and good memories. Sometimes caregiver communities and support groups can be helpful for this.
Do you or your loved one have Alzheimer’s? Consider helping us in one of our clinical research trials on Alzheimer’s.