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Prioritizing Your Health as a Caregiver

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

By Sarah Allen-Sutter

November is National Family Caregiver’s Month—a month to honor family caregivers, to raise awareness of the issues family caregivers face, and to increase support for family caregivers.

Caregiving can be highly rewarding, strengthening the bond between you and your loved one; however, it can also be extremely physically and emotionally taxing, and in caring for your loved one, you may be pushing your own health and needs to the side. This article will address caregiver stress and provide tips on combatting this stress and taking care of yourself as well as your loved one.

Recognizing Caregiver Stress and Depression

Caregiver stress is the stress that comes from the emotional and physical toll of caregiving. Chronic caregiver stress can lead to further serious health problems, such as depression.

Signs of stress overload

· Feeling overwhelmed, alone, isolated, or deserted by others

· Disrupted sleep: sleeping too much or too little

· Feeling tired most of the time

· Anxiety or irritability

· Health problems (headaches, body aches, catching a series of colds/flu)

· Unhealthy behaviors such as smoking or drinking often

Signs of depression

· Unintended changes in weight or change in appetite

· Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy

· Feeling sad, hopeless, helpless, worthless, or guilty

· Crying easily or for no apparent reason

· Feeling slowed down, restless, or irritable

· Headaches, backaches, digestive problems

· Disrupted sleep: sleeping too much or too little

· Memory and concentration problems

· Thoughts about death or suicide

Talk to you doctor if you feel like you may be experiencing symptoms of stress overload or depression. Your doctor may provide you techniques for managing stress, refer you to a counselor, or prescribe medication.

Taking care of yourself

It can be difficult to make your own wellness a priority when you are caregiving, but it is essential in order to maintain your own health and wellbeing. By prioritizing your health, you can prevent caregiver stress, maintain your health, and be the best caregiver you can be. Here are some basic ways that you can take care of your health and wellness:

Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco

These may seem like a path to short-term relief, but they can disrupt sleep further and lead to long-term health problems. If you have trouble eliminating alcohol or drugs from your lifestyle, speak with your doctor.

Maintain a Balanced Diet

Your body needs healthy foods to maintain your energy and wellbeing. If you are making a healthy meal for your loved one, make enough for yourself as well. Keep healthy snacks on hand if you need to grab food on the go.

Exercise Regularly

Try to exercise 30 to 60 minutes, 4 to 6 times per week. Regular exercise improves your mental health, reduces stress, and increases your energy. Outdoor exercise is especially effective in boosting both your mental health and your physical health. If your loved one is able, include them in the exercise. If not, look for a substitute caregiver or caregiver respite to give you time to exercise.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. This can be especially difficult for carers of loved ones with dementia, who often have irregular sleep or wander throughout the night. Here you can find some advice on caring for loved ones with dementia: Take naps and rest when your loved one is napping. Use this time to take care of yourself.

Have Regular Check-Ups

Make sure to have regular check-ups with your doctor. Keep up-to-date on screenings, tests, and vaccinations to prevent disease and catch any medical issues early.

Ask For Help

Make a list of people who are willing to help and reach out for help when you need relief. This list may include family members, friends, or temporary care workers. Most communities will have caregiver respite resources available as well. (see community resources)

Caregiver Support Groups

Consider joining a Caregiver Support Group. Talking about your experience with other caregivers can help relieve stress and build a community of support.

Look to Your Community Resources

Yolo County has lots of resources for caregivers, including caregiver respite, adult day health, and caregiver support groups. The Del Oro Caregiver Resource Center also has a lot of useful resources and guides. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for a follow-up article detailing the caregiver resources available in Yolo County.


If you have questions about caregiver health or caregiver resources, feel free to reach out to Yolo Healthy Aging Alliance: 530-776-5006; Subscribe to our blog to be notified when new healthy aging articles are released.


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