Taking Care of Yourself
10 Tips for Caregivers*
- Take charge of your life--don't let your loved one's illness or disability always take center stage.
- Remember to be good to yourself. Maintain your own health through exercise, nutrition, and proper rest. Take time to do the things you enjoy and maintain contact with friends and family.
- Watch out for signs of depressoin in yourself and don't delay in getting professional help when you need it.
- When people offer to help, accept the offer and suggest specific things they can do.
- Educate yourself about your loved one's condition. Information is empowering.
- There is a difference between caring and doing. Be open to technologies and ideas that promote your loved one's independence.
- Trust your instincts. Most of the time, they'll lead you in the right direction.
- Grieve your losses and then allow yourself to dream new dreams.
- Stand up for your rights as a caregiver and a citizen.
- Seek support from other caregivers. Consider attending a support group or program for family caregivers. There is a great strength in knowing you are not alone.
* Adapted with permission from 10 Tips for Family Caregivers, National Family Caregivers Association. Available in English and Spanish.
Your role is critical to the well-being of your loved one with Parkinson’s disease (PD). But it’s also critical to allow yourself to feel the emotions that may accompany your changing role in your relationship.
Try to set realistic goals about the care you can provide for your loved one and seek support when you need it. Many Parkinson’s disease advocacy organizations provide resources for caregivers and can help you find caregiver support groups
in your area.
Here are some important things for every caregiver to consider:
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
You and your loved one must be candid about the reality that caregivers need care too. The two of you are in a partnership, and you cannot meet your responsibilities if you neglect yourself physically, emotionally, or financially.
Watch for Signs of Depression
Taking care of someone with a progressive disease can be physically draining, but it can also have a detrimental effect on your emotional well-being. Isolation, frustration, and guilt about feeling frustrated with your situation can all contribute to the development of depression symptoms. Occasional feelings of sadness or discouragement are normal, but you should watch for signs that you may be experiencing clinical depression, including*:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy or feeling overwhelmed and fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Restlessness or irritability
*Adapted with permission from Symptoms of Depression, National Institute of Mental Health NIH Publication No. 02-500.
If you experience these or other signs that may indicate clinical depression, talk to your doctor. A variety of treatment options are available. Social workers, faith-based counselors, and support groups
may also be helpful in dealing with the emotional ups and downs of caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease.
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Don’t Neglect Yourself
Between the demands of your role as a caregiver and the common feeling that your loved one’s health is more important, it’s easy to neglect your own well-being. But remember that if you aren’t well, you won’t be able to provide the care your loved one needs.
Part of staying well is taking time out for yourself. For instance, remember to continue doing the things you enjoy and spending time with friends and family. Engaging in social activities — especially outside the home — is important to maintaining your sense of well-being.
Some things you can do to help stay physically healthy include:
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- Exercising regularly
- Eating well
- Getting regular medical check-ups
- Getting the flu shot each year