Tips for caregivers to maintain a healthy balance in their lives

Having too many tasks and responsibilities when caring for a family member can become a major source of stress, which can affect the caregiver’s psychological and physical health,* says Statistics Canada.

About 60% of Canadians caring for a father or mother are worried or distressed, and 30% report multiple signs of distress.* More than 1 in 5 people providing care to parents also reported that their overall health suffered,* according to Statistics Canada.

Caring for an aging parent can have many rewards; however, even the most resilient people need to balance the responsibilities of caring for a parent with self-care.

Here some tips to help preserve your health and emotional well-being:

1. Don’t skip meals. Eat healthy meals and snacks,* even though it may seem easier to grab fast food or miss a meal, advises Alberta Health Services. Healthy eating will give you more energy and reduce your risk of illness.

2. Be physically active and sleep better. Fatigue, difficulty falling asleep and changes in sleep are common signs of caregiver stress,* says the Public Health Agency of Canada. People who are physically active for 150 minutes a week improve their sleep quality by 65% and feel more alert during the day,* reported a Mental Health and Physical Activity study.

3. Find someone to help. Ask a friend or family member to run errands or spend time with your parent, so you can take breaks to do things you enjoy,* suggests Harvard Medical School. Go to a spinning or yoga class, read, listen to music, garden, or see a movie with a friend. You can also consider respite care at a retirement residence.

4. Seek social support. Connect regularly with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support,* says Mayo Clinic. Set aside time each week for a walk or lunch with a friend. Consider joining a support group for caregivers.

5. Start a journal. Journaling can lift your mood by allowing you to express pain, anger, fear or other difficult emotions,* suggests Mayo Clinic. People who wrote about emotionally difficult events or feelings for 20 minutes at a time over three or four days boosted their immune system,* reported an Advances in Psychiatric Treatment study.

6. See your doctor. It’s easy to forget your own health when you’re busy with caregiving, work and other family responsibilities. Get regular medical checkups, tell your doctor you’re a caregiver, and mention any physical or emotional health concerns or symptoms,* says Alberta Health Services.

*The following source provided references for this blog:
1. Alberta Health Services. “Caregiver tips.” (2018), online: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=cares&
2. Statistics Canada. “Family caregiving: What are the consequences?” (2013), online: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2013001/article/11858-eng.pdf
3. Statistics Canada. “Family caregiving: What are the consequences?” (2013), online: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2013001/article/11858-eng.pdf
4. Statistics Canada. “Family caregiving: What are the consequences?” (2013), online: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2013001/article/11858-eng.pdf
5. 1. Alberta Health Services. “Caregiver tips.” (2018), online: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=cares&
6. Public Health Agency of Canada. “Self-care for caregivers.” (2005), online: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/phac-aspc/migration/phac-aspc/publicat/oes-bsu-02/pdf/self-care-caregivers_e.pdf
7. National Sleep Foundation. “Study: Physical activity impacts overall quality of sleep.” (2019), online: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep
8. Harvard Health Publishing. “Caregiver stress and burnout.” (2018), online: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiver-stress-and-burnout.htm
9. Mayo Clinic. “Caregiver stress: Tips for taking care of yourself.” (2018), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784
10. Mayo Clinic. “Caregiver depression: Prevention counts.” (2016), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/caregiver-depression/art-20047051
11. Dailycaring.com. “Six benefits of journaling.” (2019), online: https://dailycaring.com/6-benefits-of-journaling-for-caregivers/
12. Alberta Health Services. “Caregiver tips.” (2018), online: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=cares&