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Caregiver Checklist: 5 Things Every Caregiver Needs to Do Today

Keep this be-good-to-you checklist handy to help prevent caregiver burnout. 1

“Caregiving can swallow you whole,” says Sharon, from Massachusetts, whose husband, Chris, was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 58. “You hear cancer, and a huge fear overwhelms you. I knew Chris had to face this, and I could see the flood of worry racing through his mind. I wanted to support and care for him, and not let on how afraid I was,” she says about taking on her new caregiver role.

It can be terrifying seeing the man you love get struck down by illness. But in our jump to the rescue, we can end up piling too much onto our shoulders, leading to burnout, exhaustion, even depression. 2

Everything became cancer related. Finally, I learned that to be my best for him, I had to take care of myself.

Sharon
Randolph, Massachusetts

Sharon began planning small weekly treats: walking with friends, indulging in healthy desserts, playing upbeat music, praying or checking in with her support group. “I started feeling heaps better.” Stay healthy with the take-care-of-you checklist below.

5 things Sharon & experts suggest
checking in on daily. Start now!

Have You Asked for What You Need? 3

Yes, it’s hard to ask for help. But friends who offer want to support you. Fresh loads of laundry? A healthy supper? A grocery run? Jot down 3 things you could use today—and  tell someone who asks. Need help of thinking of ways others can help you? First, you may want to map out all of your caregiving tasks in this Caregiving Planning Guide – then you can determine what others can help with, and assign them one of the tasks you outlined in your guide. CLICK FOR ARTICLE HERE ) 4

Have You Checked Your Stress Levels?

Enemy #1: Stress. Caregivers report higher stress levels than others, which can prompt illness. 5

  • Pick 2-3 stress-busters, and dedicate 30 minutes daily.
  • Watch a comedy, or do yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, or breathing exercises. 6
  • Or try Cleveland Clinic’s Stress Free Now app. DOWNLOAD APP HERE )

Have You Put Sleep Strategies in Place?

It’s no shocker: You need more sleep. One study found half of caregivers got inadequate sleep, causing daytime fatigue. 7 Try these proven tricks: Skip big meals before bed, and keep your bedroom cool and dark—and TV and electronic-device screens out of it. 8 Also try these 5 Secret Sleep Tools. ( CLICK TO SEE INFOGRAPHIC )

Have You Gotten Outside Yet?

It's 4:00 p.m. Been outdoors? Even if it's for a 10-minute walk around the block, you'll be surprised at the energy boost and calm a short stroll can bring. 9 Set this one as your goal: get outdoors daily. If you just can't swing it, look at nature photos, which can also be stress-lowering, finds research. 10

Did You Talk It Out Today?

Be good to yourself: schedule a 20-minute phone conversation weekly with friends you can open up to. Research shows that laughter is an especially potent stress buster. 11 Support groups also provide relief, and connect you with other caregivers. Sharon and Chris found a healthy outlet at Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN).

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REFERENCES
[1] Family Caregiver Alliance. Caregiver Health. https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-health. Accessed April 2016.
[2] Family Caregiver Alliance. Caregiver Health. https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-health. Accessed April 2016.
[3] Women’s Health. Caregiver Stress. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/car.... Accessed April 2016.
[4] AARP. Caregiving Resource Center. http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/caregiving-tools/. Accessed April 2016.
[5] Women’s Health. Fact Sheet. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/car.... Accessed April 2016.
[6] Women’s Health. Fact Sheet. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/car.... Accessed April 2016.
[7] Carney S, Koetters T, Cho M, et al. Differences in sleep disturbance parameters between oncology outpatients and their family caregivers. J Clin Oncol 2011; 29(8):1001-1006
[8] National Sleep Foundation. A Great Night’s Sleep Can Depend on the Visual Conditions in Your Bedroom Environment. https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/see.php. Accessed April 2016.
[9] Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Exercise for Stress and Anxiety. http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress.... Accessed April 2016.
[10] The Dirt: Uniting the Built Natural Environments. Research Shows Nature Helps With Stress. https://dirt.asla.org/2011/09/08/research-shows-nature-helps-with-stress/. Accessed April 2016.
[11] Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle: Stress Management. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/s.... Accessed April 2016.