As a caregiver, how are you managing to take care of your own health?

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18 months ago when we knew my mom had *something* wrong but before the Alz diagnosis, I joined Weight Watchers. Even while things have gotten worse, I have managed to lose 70 pounds.

Then this summer things got worse. I was working lots of hours, mom took a turn for the worse, had house guests, etc. We used to be able to leave mom alone while we went out. So I would come home from work and be able to take a walk. That ended. She now needs someone with her all day or she gets upset. I found out that I can't even walk on the treadmill, which is in the bedroom next to hers. The treadmill is so loud that I can't hear what she says to me from the doorway, and she won't come closer. So now she sees me on it and gets upset.

For the last 5 months, I've been bouncing up and down with the same 8 pounds or so. I finally decided that had to stop. I've gotten back on track with my eating and plan time for my brother to be with mom while I exercise. It doesn't always work out, but so far so good.

As caregivers, we HAVE to take care of ourselves or we'll get sick, stressed, depressed, etc. (YOU all know.)

So what do you do? How do you try to balance being healthy with the time/energy, etc needed to be a caregiver?

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I wish we all knew the answer to this. It's so easy to say and so hard to do. Hiring help, asking friends, etc. are ways that help some people. But most of us struggle. Weight gain (or loss) are common problems. Any tips out there on the forum?
Carol
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As a caregiver for the past 10 years, I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into depression and weight gain. Didn't care, didn't think anyone else did either. Then, one morning after getting on the scale and realizing my weight continued to climb, I looked in the mirror and said to myself, "This is NOT me, this has never been me. Where has the pride, the self-assurance gone! If no one else cares, I must care." Yes, I saw wrinkles, but I also realized the emotional scars that were deepening inside--scars the medical field doesn't see and no one could heal but me. That was the moment I changed my outlook. I wrote down exactly what I would eat, planned physical activity, would increase my gardening and time spent outdoors, have my hair done once a month, join friends for dinner on Friday nights, etc. That was 3 months ago. I am now back to my previous weight, look good and feel more confident. Refuse to permit my Alzheimer's spouse to pull me down with his insidious control and manipulation. Yes, I take very good care of him, but I make certain there is time for me. And you know what, every caregiver needs to do the same. Take time for Special You. Not only to you need it, you deserve it. There are people that will help you. Call a neighbor, a friend, discuss your concerns with your doctor,your minister or priest--perhaps a church member, an organization--put please don't wait and do nothing. Help is a phone call away. Don't feel guilty---some Alzheimer's patients love to do that. Take care of yourself. Sometimes in life that's the only person we can depend on. I will be praying for all the caregivers out there. No one knows what we go through, but us.
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I also think so many of us push off our own health care is because if we find ourselves in yet another doctor's waiting room we will scream !!!

Fast forward more than a year since my previous post, my Dad now has 24-hour caregivers and my Mom is in long-term care. Even with that I still find myself exhausted.... I find myself visiting Mom daily, with or without Dad along [trying to train Dad to ask the Caregivers to drive him], checking Mom's needs, doing her laundry... and couple weeks ago came home with a huge arm load of my parents financial information from their home of which I found out wasn't being tended too, now I need to sort through a ton of loose papers, pas-due bills, medical reports, etc.... [sigh].
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Being a caregiver is not for the lazy or procrastinators. You are constantly running while caring of a loved one, mainly doing the menial chores around the house. Not only are you doing your own laundry, cooking, cleaning, but you are doing it for them as well. And then there is doctor appointments, and trying to find ways to keep them entertained and to keep their minds active.
It is easy to "plateau" with your weight gain when you are not doing your cardio exercises, and most of the time you feel like you don't have the energy to do them and keep your heart rate up for 20-30 minutes. My advice is to do your cardio exercises BEFORE you start the day with your loved one, that way you are getting a headstart on the day and it will give you extra energy to accomplish the tasks layed out before you. You can get in a 2 mile walk in a half hour, on the 3.5 setting on the treadmill. If you can't do the half hour, then it needs to be at least 20 minutes. A little secret of mine, I take a tablespoon of metamucil dissolved in hot water EVERY night usually an hour or two before I go to bed. It keeps things "moving" and the sludge build up is non existant. Which we ALL know can make you feel sluggish and stip you of your much needed energy. Metamucil not only keeps you "lighter", it lowers cholesterol.
The problem with the noise from the treadmill can be somewhat filtered with the sound of a fan motor running or even get a piece of carpet and nail it up on the wall in her bedroom that faces that room.
I hope it works out for you. God Bless.
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Fregflyer, that is quite a load you are carrying. The road seems to get more difficult as we travel farther along. It is for sure we must take measures to keep up our health, and to get help coming in.

Marymember, you started out with a whole lot on your plate! If you cannot start another thread or question because of difficulties, just keep posting here.
OR, maybe you want someone to start a question for you so you can get the focus you need on your issues?
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Mary, the way I get into the forums.... I go near the top of the page to the blue bar.... now click on CAREGIVER FORUM.... now click on SUPPORT GROUPS... scroll down and you will see all the RECENT QUESTIONS.... now go to the right of that and you will see ASK A QUESTION, click on that and follow the prompts.

To write to an individual on the forums, just click on their screen name, like your screen name is Marymember.... then you will see POST A MESSAGE, that message will only go to that person.
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Boy! I am right with you!! My dad is going on 98 and has been with us for almost 3 years. I am 75 and the work is hard, no doubt about it. Haven't gotten help yet as my husband is always ready to lend a hand. Dad has no dementia, just weak from age, etc. Walks with a walker and uses the wheelchair for long walks,etc. Needs bathing, dressing help every day. He is always in a good mood and grateful to be living with us. Makes it hard to consider a nursing home at this time. I will be interested in the answers you get from your question. We don't get out enough as I only have a brother who sometimes will come over and sit with dad. I need to have outside help soon as I am near the end of being able to go this on a daily basis. Hugs to you. Coolbuss
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Hi Julie, this is coolbuss again. My name is Marion, by the way.
I just want you to know that you are in my prayers and thoughts. I love this website as it helps to raise awareness that we are not alone. Some have it easier than others and I know my burden is much lighter than yours. My dad goes to bed by 9:30 and I get him up at 7:30. That gives us an hour alone before lights out. My husband is a great help but he is feeling the stress after almost 3 years.

When dad says, with tears in his eyes, that he knows how much we are giving up to care for him it definitely makes the job easier. Your poor mom just can't pull that out in her condition. So sad since she took care of her own mom.

Take care and remember to breathe!! Marion Buss
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I understand how you feel about needing to take care of ourselves. I'm going to try to train myself not to grab for food when stressed, bored, lonely, tired, etc. And try to get through one day. Just one good day and tomorrow I'll wake up feeling better.
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Very good information...I am so exhausted....next step is to get Visiting Angels in to help me....I'll be 80 in November and my energy level is so low..marymember
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