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Staying well while caregiving

Caring for a loved one is stressful, but there are ways to help you avoid burnout and steps you can take to protect your own health. Caregiving does not need to take a toll on your body, mood or your quality of life.

Reduce stress and maintain your health when you're taking care of someone else by following these tips.

  1. Keep learning. Research information about your family member's condition. It's helpful to know what to expect.
  2. Find help. Contact family, friends and caregiver organizations. Identify resources early so you can more easily find help when needed.
  3. Carve out personal time. Find ways to make time just for you. Do at least one thing each day just for you.
  4. Exercise and eat well. Not only is regular exercise good for your health but it's a great stress-reliever and can also boost your energy level. A well-balanced diet will also help you stay energized and healthier.
  5. Prioritize tasks. When you're caregiving on top of your regular activities, it's hard to do everything. Prioritize the things that absolutely need to get done and cut yourself some slack on the rest.
  6. Keep things in perspective. Some days it may be hard to smile, let alone laugh, but laughter is good medicine. Try to find the humor in your day and be realistic about what you can and cannot control.
  7. Stay connected. Don't allow yourself to become isolated. Even if you can't get out of the house much, stay connected by phone, text or email. Better yet, make arrangements for someone to relieve you of your responsibilities on occasion so you can go out.
  8. Maintain your own health. Get yearly checkups and recommended screenings.
  9. Watch for signs of depression. If you experience symptoms such as increased crying, a change in sleep patterns or appetite, or a lack of interest in usual activities, talk to your healthcare provider.
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