Get Healthy Carson City: When caring for others, don’t forget self

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Throughout the month of November, the Caregiver Action Network is celebrating National Family Caregivers Month. Helping to care for a sick, disabled or dying loved one exacts a steep emotional toll. One study found half the caregivers surveyed say they have less time to spend with family and friends. As the holidays approach, the stress of being a caregiver can become nearly unbearable when added to the toll of other holiday obligations.

While many people provide care for elderly parents or relatives, others may be responsible for a disabled or ailing spouse, or a special-needs child. A large number of caregivers fall into the so-called “sandwich generation” and are providing care for their own children whilst also looking after aging parents.

These 10 tips from AARP will help keep your stress in check while caring for loved ones of any age, this holiday season and throughout the year.

Although it’s difficult for caregivers to think of anything other than providing for their loved ones as best they can, it’s important to put your own physical needs first. Eat nutritious meals, get plenty of sleep, and stay up-to-date on regular medical checkups. Find time to exercise, even if it means you have to ask someone else to provide care for a while.

Connect with friends. Isolation increases stress. Getting together or talking regularly with friends and relatives can keep negative emotions at bay.

Ask for help. Make a list of things you have to do and recruit others to pitch in. Even faraway relatives and friends can manage certain tasks.

Call on community resources. Service providers, including home health aides, homemakers and home repair services, can shoulder some of the many responsibilities of caregiving. Volunteers or staff from faith-based organizations or civic groups might visit, cook or help you with driving.

Get support. Your ailing family member might benefit from someone else’s company. Think about respite care by friends, relatives or volunteers. Adult day centers, which usually operate five days a week, provide care in a group setting for adults who need supervision.

Address your feelings. Holding in stress takes a toll on your mental and physical well-being. Share feelings of frustration with friends and family. You may benefit from an appointment with a professional counselor, or from joining a caregiver support group.

Find time to relax. Doing something you enjoy, such as reading, walking or listening to music, can recharge your batteries.

Get organized. Simple tools like calendars and to-do lists can help you prioritize your responsibilities. Always tackle the most important tasks first, and don’t worry if you can’t manage everything.

Just say no. Accept the fact you simply can’t do everything! Resist the urge to take on more activities, projects or financial obligations than you can handle.

Stay positive. Do your best to avoid negativity. Hold a family meeting or call a mediator to resolve conflicts with siblings and other relatives. Instead of dwelling on what you can’t do, pat yourself on the back for how much you’re doing, and focus on the rewards of caring for someone you love.

Caregiving is an important role for many in our community. The struggles faced by those who take on this noble task are often overlooked. This holiday season, if you’re a caregiver, remember to take time for yourself. If you have a friend who’s caring for a relative, offer to lend a hand. For more information about other Health Department services, check out our website at, or visit us at


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