Marty Finley has been working with older adults in the Northwest Valley for more than 18 years. Her experience and background as a care manager and family care consultant for the Alzheimer’s Association have prepared her well to work with patients with dementia and their families. We’d like to thank Marty for taking the time to share the importance of self-care for caregivers in honor of National Family Caregiver Month.
As a family caregiver, you may be so focused on taking good care of your loved one that you neglect to take care of yourself. Caregivers often focus on the loved one needing care so much that their own health and wellbeing “take a backseat.” Somehow the person needing care gets to their medical appointments yet the family caregiver “doesn’t have time” to get to their own appointments. Research shows that caregivers’ own health issues can be exacerbated by the stress of being a full time caregiver. Caregivers have a greater risk of being the one to pass away first, before the care recipient, by 63% to 67%. Caregivers are often exhausted and feel that they have no more energy to manage their own health concerns, but this approach can be deadly.
Practicing good self-care enables you to continue being available for your loved one. I often tell caregivers “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” Good self-care means getting enough rest and eating well-balanced meals. Self-care also means taking some time away from caregiver duties. We all need some “downtime” to refresh and recharge our own batteries, but this is especially true for people tasked with the unrelenting job of caring for another. Additionally, regular physical exercise is critical to maintaining good health. It serves as a stress buster and acts as a natural antidepressant. Maintaining social connections is vital, both for emotional support and to add “fun” back into your life. Finally, if you have always had a spiritual practice, it is more important than ever to maintain it.
Marty Finley, M.Ed.