If you’re part of the sandwich generation – that big group of middle-aged Americans caring for both parents and kids – any time spent on yourself can feel like an indulgence. But caregiving experts say self-care and careful planning are the keys to everyone’s survival and success. For example, if you come down with the flu or break an ankle, who gets the kids to school and drives Mom to the doctor? Here’s how to put together a plan to keep everyone’s routine going when you need care.
Make daily self care a habit
The VA recommends 5 basic self-care practices for family caregivers to protect your health:
- Eat healthy meals. Without a well-balanced diet, your health can start to decline.
- Exercise regularly. Regular activity can reduce your stress levels, help you sleep better, and keep you in shape to handle caregiving tasks.
- Get enough sleep. Fatigue can affect your decision-making abilities, hinder your immune system, lead to weight gain, and make you irritable with the people you care about. If round-the-clock care is wearing you out, it may be time to hire an overnight home health aide.
- Keep up with preventive healthcare and checkups. Because your family is depending on you, it’s important that you check in reguarly with your doctor, dentist, and optometrist to make sure you’re at your best.
- Protect your back. Back injuries are no fun, and they can interfere with your caregiving tasks. Learn to lift properly, do daily stretches to maintain flexibility, and learn the right way to do transfers from wheelchair to bed or chair to car to protect you and your loved one.
Remember to also ask for help. It may be hard at first but it can reduce your stress level in the long run.
Try out a few services before you need them
You may be fine doing the grocery shopping, walking the dog, washing the laundry, and cleaning the house in addition to work and caregiving, but it’s always nice to have a backup. If no one else in your home can do those things, try a few local home services you might rely on in a pinch:
- Grocery delivery and errand services like Instacart and TaskRabbit
- Pet sitters and dog walkers in your neighborhood or through Rover.com
- Local laundromats that offer wash-and-fold service
- Housecleaners and lawn care services recommended by your friends and neighbors
A trial run will give you a sense of how reliable and helpful these services would be if you were sick for a few days – when you really wouldn’t be interested in auditioning helpers.
Create a backup plan for emergencies
Think about how your household would run if you were away for a few days. Make a list of everything that would absolutely have to get done, from chores and errands to care tasks. Think about who you could call on to help, and what local home care services you could hire to bridge the gap until you’re better. The ideal time to research and try out home care services is before you’re in a bind. Read reviews, talk to other caregivers, and contact a few senior care agencies to see if you can set up some trial runs. That way you’ll know that even if you’re sick or out of town, your loved ones will get the care they need.
Learn more about in home care options on SeniorAdvisor.com.