Staying Healthy as a Caregiver

Woman caregiving for man in a wheelchair

How to Stay Healthy Mentally and Physically When You're a Caregiver

Taking care of others can be hard on your own health. In fact, 17 to 25 percent of caregivers say their health is fair or poor, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. That statistic isn't surprising. Whether you're caring for young children or elderly relatives, caregiving is a demanding, stressful job. Following these tips will help you avoid injuries and health issues while also reducing stress in your life.

Stay Active

Lack of exercise is a common issue among caregivers. At the end of a long day, it can be hard to find the energy to work out. Yet, inactivity can increase your risk of developing a variety of health problems, including:

  • Obesity
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression
  • Colon, Breast or Uterine Cancer

Exercise offers a simple way to reduce your risk of developing these diseases and conditions. Even 10 or 15-minute exercise sessions can help you stay healthy. You don't have to visit a gym or even leave the house to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Walking up and down the steps repeatedly, exercising to a video or jogging in place will get your blood flowing and help keep your heart, muscles, and bones strong.

Don't Neglect Your Interests

You may have given up your favorite hobbies and leisure activities after you began caring for a friend or family member. Although your dedication is certainly commendable, you may soon feel depressed or stressed if your life only involves caregiving.

Find time to watch a favorite TV show, try the new restaurant in town or finish your woodworking project. If the person you care for requires 24-hour supervision, ask a friend to take over for you for a few hours or find out if home health agencies in your area offer respite care.

Make Your Health a Priority

You can't take care of other people if you're sick. Has your diet suffered since you became a caregiver? Eating a balanced diet is a crucial factor in good health. Make sure your meals include options from the major food groups and avoid carbohydrate-laden or sugary snacks.

Make (and keep) appointments with your doctor when you don't feel well. The longer you put off receiving medical care, the worse your illness or condition can become. Visiting your doctor promptly will help you ensure that you're well enough to care for your family member or friend.

Use Safe Lifting Techniques

Poor lifting techniques can cause injuries that make it difficult or impossible to care for your relative. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 17 percent of caregivers reported that they experienced 14 or more physically unhealthy days over a month's time span.

Lifting with your legs while keeping your neck and head aligned can help you avoid injury, as can using a lifting belt to help transfer a person from a wheelchair or bed. No matter how cautiously you move, injuries can still happen. Don't be reluctant to ask for help if you don't think you can move the person safely.

See Your Chiropractor

It's not unusual for caregivers to develop stiffness and pain, particularly in their necks and backs. Ignoring your symptoms may worsen pain and decrease your range of motion.

Regular visits to your chiropractor help you reduce pain and other symptoms. Using spinal manipulation, soft tissue mobilization, massage, and other techniques, your chiropractor can realign your spine, decrease muscle stiffness and pain, and speed healing of injured areas by increasing blood flow.

Both you and your family member or friend benefit when you take care of yourself. If caregiving is taking a toll on your body, we can help. Contact us to schedule your chiropractic appointment.

Sources:

American Heart Association: Top 10 Caregiver Tips for Staying Healthy and Active, 6/30/17

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Caregiving for Family and Friends - A Public Health Issue

Family Caregiver Alliance: Caregiver Statistics: Health, Technology and Caregiving Resources

Medline Plus: Health Risks of an Inactive Lifestyle

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