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Handling the Stress of Caregiving for an Older Adult

Those who are most successful at managing the stress of caregiving tend to be realists.  They accept that not all decisions are perfect.  They understand that some things will be left undone at the end of the day.  And – perhaps most importantly – they take deliberate steps to care for their own physical and emotional well-being.

Here’s a list of stress-management basics:

  • Eat three balanced meals per day, including breakfast.  Learn to prepare simple meals that center around whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.  Try to avoid eating in the car or at your desk.  Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine or more than two or three ounces of alcohol per day.

  • Get some exercise at least four times a week.  Find an activity that you enjoy and that’s reasonably convenient.  Having an “exercise buddy” can help you both stick to it.  It need not be complicated:  A brisk, 30-minute walk can be refreshing and invigorating.  Some people enjoy stretching, swimming or yoga.  Talk with your doctor to plan an exercise program that makes sense for you.

  • Give yourself 30 minutes a day that is yours alone.  This is not selfish, it’s self-preservation.  Spend that 30 minutes doing something you enjoy: reading, watching TV, working at a hobby or craft.

  • Get enough sleep.  Most people need at least seven hours a night.  Many need eight or nine.  You are cheating yourself and your elder if you consider sleep optional.  No one can function effectively when they’re overtired.

So now you’ve read through this stress-management list, your top lip is curling into a sneer and you’re saying to yourself, “yeah, right.  Like I could actually find time to do those four things on top of everything else.”  Remind yourself,  then remind yourself again, that you cannot provide good care to your loved one unless you are whole and healthy yourself.