November Is National Family Caregivers Month
Be a healthy care partner to give the best care.
November is National Family Caregivers Month. Over the course of our lifetime, many of us will find ourselves taking care of a loved one with a disease or disability who may need temporary or long-term assistance with daily activities. Being a caregiver, or what is often referred to as a "care partner," can be fulfilling by offering the opportunity to provide a loved one, friend, or neighbor with needed help and reassurance. However, this role can also affect the life of the care partner in significant and often challenging ways.
Challenges for Care Partners
The time and attention needed for caregiving can be disruptive to the care partner's ability to continue to work, engage in leisure-time activities, and have time of their own. Caregiving can also involve the need to learn new skills and manage time more effectively. These and other potential challenges can add increased stress and place care partners at increased risk of illness themselves. In particular, care partners can become depressed or anxious.
Be a Healthy Care Partner
Given the challenges of caregiving, it's important for care partners to remember to take care of their own health and continue to practice healthful behaviors. Here are some important points to remember to help you stay healthy as a care partner —for yourself and for the one you are caring for.
- Keep up with your own medical care. Don't skip regularly scheduled preventive care, such as flu shots or mammograms.
- Make sure to get enough rest. Your ability to give care can be lessened by inadequate sleep.
- Continue or start to get regular physical activity. In addition to a variety of benefits for your physical health, regular physical activity is one of the best stress reducers available.
- Continue to nurture your own social relationships. A strong social network can help you cope with stress and provide support.
- Reach out for help when you need it. Get acquainted with your local support services. Most communities have programs for care partners including respite assistance, support groups, specialized education for specific illnesses and disabilities, and other useful services.
Remember, your ability to continue to be a good care partner for your loved one depends on maintaining your own health.