In our senior care business we are often helping not only seniors but their family caregivers as well. We do this by providing someone loving and caring to look after their elderly family member while they get away for a few hours or a few days to take care of themselves.
In honor of heart health month and Valentine's Day, we thought it appropriate to offer these 5 tips for caregivers to maintain a healthy heart, both literally and figuratively.
The Mayo Clinic writes on their blog, "Caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient people. If you're a caregiver, take steps to preserve your own health and well-being." And the American Heart Association says, "Patient caretakers who focus solely on themselves may let others down, while those who just concentrate on others’ needs may become self-neglectful."
Tip 1: Eat Heart Healthy. If you are dashing from responsibility to responsibility, it's all too easy to grab a quick bite of fast food... you know you want to do it! Instead, try to choose the brightly colored fruits and vegetables, nuts, and drink plenty of water. Notice that each of these (a banana, some almonds, and a bottle of water) are all easy to carry with you in the car or your handbag! And a side benefit of eating "heart healthy" is that it is also "brain healthy!"
Tip 2: Make Time for Exercise. 30 minutes per day is the current recommendation for heart health...and brain health! Yes, caregiving keeps you busy, especially if you are a "sandwich caregiver" caring for kids (or grandkids) as well as parents (or a spouse). When can you exercise? How about before everyone else gets up (on the treadmill with the morning news)? Or you can make it more social and go to the gym! Yes, this is time away from the loved ones you care for. See tips 4 and 5 for more on this!
Tip 3: Fire your Guilt. Most caregivers feel guilty... about not doing enough, about taking time for themselves, about getting the wrong type of exercise, about...well...whatever! As Donald Trump would say, "Guilt, you're fired!" It really accomplishes nothing except stressing you out! It takes a while to make this type of change, but keep at it and realize it's OK if you and your family eat the same leftovers 2 days in a row. Just see tip #1 to make sure the leftovers are as healthy as they can be!
Tip 4: Keep your own social network alive and well. Research has repeatedly shown that keeping social relationships while caregiving is important to overall health. Your friends serve as a source of support, a chance for you to get away from the caregiving routine, and an opportunity to learn fresh perspectives on caregiving. Heck, they might even offer you some help (see tip 5).
And don't forget your spouse! We care for a lady whose daughter is completely dedicated to her... one of our loving care providers stays with her mom for a few hours a week while she and her husband go on "date night."
Tip 5: Accept Help. Finally, enabling you to achieve tips 2, 3 and 4 is recognizing you are not superwoman and accepting help! Friends, relatives, church congregations, senior centers, and senior care organizations like Seniors Helping Seniors all provide a variety of ways to get help caring for you loved ones. You only have to ask! If you'd like to contact us, we can be reached at (610) 590-4888.
Be well and Happy Heart Health Month!