• Caregiving is a hazardous job. Protecting your own health is an absolutely critical thing to do for yourself and your loved one.
  • Breaks of all sizes -- from a daily cup of tea to an annual vacation -- are powerful protection against burnout and illness.
  • Actively maintaining your health is habit-forming, but those habits need time to take root. Start with small lifestyle changes.

With its often extreme levels of mental and physical stress, caregiving is an inherently risky job that often contributes to premature aging, illness, and even death. A caregiver who doesn’t actively protect her health is like a construction worker without a hard hat.

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Take control of your caregiving situation by asserting your needs.

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Your good health is a gift to your loved one and yourself. Get over the guilt you might feel and make time to take care of yourself. Taking regular breaks from caregiving might seem impractical, unnatural, or even unnecessary, but go out of your way to do it. Keep in mind that not taking breaks has very real costs, physical, financial and emotional.

Respite care -- in which a friend, family member, or professional provides care in your place -- can give you time to look after yourself, whether that means getting to a medical checkup, having a laugh with a friend, going for a leisurely walk, or just catching up on your sleep. Many communities have adult day care programs that give caregivers a daily or weekly break.

Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be effective. A walk around the block a couple of times a day can make a big difference. Sticking to this routine will be difficult at first, and you may not notice the benefits for a month or two, but you will begin to feel better if you persist. The same goes for a healthier diet. Convenient food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Start small by substituting a piece of fruit for an unhealthy snack.

Never use your loved one’s needs as an excuse to avoid making or keeping a medical appointment. If you’ve been avoiding the doctor, make an appointment today. Stay up-to-date with flu shots. Tell your doctor about your caregiving demands, and ask about other preventive care measures.

Content shown was developed in collaboration between AGIS and National Family Caregivers Association.


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