November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and National Family Caregivers Month. Caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease can be very challenging, both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, because of the demands and stress, many caregivers often end up neglecting their own needs. According to research by US Pharmacist, 77 percent of Alzheimer's Disease caregivers experience sleep deprivation, 56 percent deal with high stress or anxiety, and 40 percent suffer from depression. These caregivers often put off their own medical care and become vulnerable to illness themselves. If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's, practice these self-care strategies and make your own health a priority.
Eat Right and Take a Multivitamin
You can’t be a valuable caregiver to others if you neglect your own health. It’s important to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains. Most people in America do not get enough nutrients from food alone. Therefore, you should consider taking a daily multivitamin. Multivitamins can fill nutrient gaps in your diet, improve your gut health, boost your energy levels, and enrich your overall well-being. Also, talk to your health care provider and have regular blood work to determine if you are deficient in any particular nutrients.
Get Plenty of Quality Sleep
Because people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have sleep issues, caregivers are often up at night as well. Sleep deprivation has been linked to a variety of physical and mental health problems, ranging from high blood pressure and diabetes to anxiety and depression. Research indicates that 20 percent of caregivers turn to alcohol to get to sleep. However, there are much healthier ways to make sure you get seven to nine hours of sleep.
If you are a full-time caregiver, you may need a little assistance from another caregiver so that you can find time for uninterrupted sleep. Look to other family members or a professional agency for help. Also, if you have trouble falling asleep, set your bedroom up for sleep-time success. Remove TVs, computers, and other distractions, and make sure the space is dark and comfortable. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and electronics in the hours leading up to bedtime.
Incorporate Stress Management Techniques
Over time, stress can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of a host of health conditions. Improving your sleep quality and quantity can help reduce stress, but other stress management techniques should also be implemented to avoid getting burned out and rundown.
● Write down your feelings – Keeping a journal can be a great way to identify your stressors, solve problems, and release frustrations.
● Exercise daily – At least 30 minutes of physical activity every day is good for your overall health and well-being.
● Practice yoga or meditation – Set up a spot in your home where you can relax and be free of distractions.
● Make time for your interests – Set an appointment with yourself on your weekly calendar so you can enjoy your hobbies or just relax.
● Seek out support – The Alzheimer’s Association offers resources for in-person and online support groups for caregivers.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be incredibly difficult. Educate yourself as much as possible about the disease so you can know what to expect. Take an active role in your loved one's medical care and advocate for their needs. Get support from friends, family members, and professionals whenever things get tough. Finally, always make yourself a priority by practicing good self-care. By taking care of yourself, you’ll improve your ability to be a better caregiver and boost your overall quality of life.
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