Take Care of Yourself When Caring for a Loved One

Looking after a loved one with rheumatoid arthrits? Here, the best ways to stay on top of your own health.

Dorothy Foltz-Gray

Practice relaxation.
Set aside time to do some deep-breathing exercises, perhaps while you listen to quiet music, recommends Dr. Schulz. “It can be as brief as a couple of minutes or a half hour,” he says. “Do it whenever you feel stress.” If you need instruction, find a class that offers relaxation training for caregivers, he advises. State and county agencies on aging offer such classes. “These programs also help caregivers identify what activities relax them: walking, being with friends or going to a movie, for instance,” says Dr. Schulz.

Make time for friends.
“For a long time I felt guilty about going out with friends,” says Tina. “Now I say, ‘It’s just as important for me to do this as it is for my mom to nap.’” Keeping up with friends can actually help you stay healthy. A study published in the journal Health Psychology found that lonely people had a poorer immune response to a flu vaccine and experienced more stress, poor sleep and elevations in the stress hormone cortisol. Another study, published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, found that people with more social support had less trouble sleeping.  

Find a support group.
To locate a group in your area, go to caregiver.com. Or try an online support group; the Family Caregiver Alliance offers four of them. Your healthcare provider or your loved one’s physician can also give you a referral.

October 2012