As a caregiver for a loved one with Parkinson’s disease (PD), your days may include medication alarms, driving to and from appointments and helping your loved one with activities of daily living, such as dressing or eating. Simultaneously, you may be managing finances, cooking, working and trying to keep up with family and friends.
It can be easy to forget that your needs require attention too. Self-care is defined as any practice that relieves stress and encourages a healthy mind and body.
At the Parkinson’s Foundation, we always want caregivers to keep themselves in mind. We know you are busy, so we’ve compiled 15 realistic ways you can implement self-care…starting today:
- Eat healthy with less hassle. The better you eat, the better you feel. This month, we teamed up with HelloFresh to award free meal-kit delivery boxes to 100 caregivers! To enter our contest, post a photo of you and your loved one with Parkinson's on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram between now and November 22 and be sure to use the hashtag #CaringForCaregivers!
- Manage stress. Determine what helps you relax most. Then devote time to it every day. See what works best for you: a hot bath, a meditating app, reading a new book or going on a walk.
- Exercise regularly. We know that exercise plays a role for your loved one’s PD, and consistent exercise can also help you. Just 30 minutes of daily exercise can help you sustain your energy and lead to better sleep.
- Set limits and stick to them. This means asking for help when you need it. Try new resources. Bring in outside help (family or paid worker) so you can take a break. Call the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at (800) 4PD-INFO (473-4636). No one can do everything for everyone all the time!
- Reflect on the rewards of caregiving. Alongside trials and challenges, caregiving offers triumphs and joys. Take pride in how much you have learned and in discovering your own strengths.
- See to your own health needs. Set up and attend your own medical appointments regularly. Your physical and mental well-being are key to successful caregiving.
- Find activities you can enjoy with your loved one outside of care. Go to a movie, host a dinner party or sign up for something new. Enjoy time together.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps flush out toxins, so bring a reusable bottle wherever you go.
- Socialize with people who uplift you. Nothing can empower you like a feeling of camaraderie. Minimize exposure to negative people. Instead, go out with friends or get involved with a community organization, support group or charity that you believe in.
- Laugh. Keeping a sense of humor helps beat anxiety. Watch a funny video or read something funny every day. Recognize and enjoy the happy moments with your loved one.
- Schedule breaks from caregiving and make them a priority. Take time to pursue other aspects of your life or just to relax. Plan these breaks in advance and arrange for help while you’re out.
- Cultivate a mindfulness practice. Try morning meditations or set a daily reminder to assess how you are coping. If you are stressed, plan your next break.
- Dream. Thinking about your future and what you want to achieve in life can help you maintain personal motivation. Can your loved one help you reach your goals?
- Accept your feelings. Guilt, anger and depression are normal reactions to a progressive disease. Recognize the hidden grief component in these emotions and seek out someone who understands it. Knowing what to expect emotionally can help.
- Practice being grateful. Recall or write down a few things from your day that made you or your loved one smile. Learn to savor the good times and the things that went right, however small.
Read Caring and Coping: A Caregiver’s Guide To Parkinson’s Disease online or order your free copy from our free Helpline: 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636), where you can also ask our PD specialists your caregiving and Parkinson’s questions.