Help for Harried Caregivers

More than 10 million Americans (mostly women) are caring for family members who have dementia — and that’s often on top of running busy households and holding down demanding jobs. If you’re one of those heroes, you know that it’s all too easy to get so caught up in the daily whirlwind that you neglect your own health. Well, don’t do it!

Remember, if you don’t take good care of yourself, you can’t do much for anyone else. So here’s your own personal Tender Loving Toolkit:

Do what Mom always told you. Eat right, get a good eight hours of sleep every night, don’t smoke, and get plenty of fresh air and regular exercise.

Take a mental health day. Everyone needs a break now and then. If you work, call in sick. If you’re based at home, simply devote the day to yourself — even if that means calling in a substitute caregiver. Then, do whatever you want. Go to a movie or an art exhibit. Curl up on the couch and read a murder mystery. Or simply sit around and do nothing.

Stay connected. Having friends and other supportive people around you is crucial to good mental and physical health. In fact, you may find that being under a lot of strain makes you feel the need to be more social, even if you’re the solitary type by nature. According to recent scientific research, stress causes your body to produce a hormone called oxytocin, which promotes a desire to connect with other people. Granted, when you’re caught up in a whirlwind of caregiving activity, it’s hard to remain socially active. But whether you volunteer in your community, join a bridge club, or become more involved in your church, the lift to your health and spirits will pay off in big dividends for you and your loved one.