Timika Chambers CDE helps caregivers prioritize their own self-care. 

I often find that caregivers (friends, siblings, spouses, and others) of people with diabetes (PWDs) struggle with creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for themselves. Many times, caregivers become so wrapped up in caring for another that they may miss or not schedule healthcare provider appointments, forget to take their medications, and become sedentary due to the perceived lack of energy and time. 

The best way loved ones can be there for anyone, including PWDs, is by making their health a priority. I believe that diabetes management is lifestyle management. The very things that PWDs must do to maintain their health (cholesterol screen, physical exams, blood pressure management, and others) are the very things we all must do to avoid or delay heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions. Caregivers can create a healthy and sustainable life by maximizing their energy and time.

Caring for others does not mean that you need to neglect your health. Caring for others can be the learning experience that leads you to optimize your health. 

Here are five tips caregivers can incorporate to help them keep their health a priority. 

  1. Maximize team health buildings activities with your loved one. Attend community events (cooking classes, diabetes support groups, healthcare provider visits) together. Treat each event as a learning opportunity. Write down what you want to incorporate in you and your loved one’s health journey. Be realistic and allow time to practice skills. Be nonjudgmental as we all learn differently. Healthy living is a process. No one obtains sustainable health in a day, week, or month. 

  2. Make time for physical activity. Schedule your “fitness health” on your calendar and set reminders. Studies have shown that social support increases adherence. Working out with the person you are caring for increases bonding and communication. Variety is also essential to sustainable fitness. Join a gym or purchase the necessary equipment and services and go for it. Make sure your healthcare provider approves of your fitness plan and be mindful of your limitations.

  3. Delegate tasks. We must let go of the guilt and need to control events in our lives. Delegating a task can be a win-win for all involved. People can learn new skills and the importance of responsibility. When we delegate tasks, we can then use our energy to take better care of ourselves.

  4. Prioritize tasks and space them throughout the week. Start with making a list of all the tasks you do (grocery shopping, laundry, mop/sweep, etc.). Give your tasks a name to help remember when to do them. For example, Wednesdays are my primary laundry days. On my calendar, for Wednesday, I have “Wash Wednesdays.”

  5. Use a journal to write down your thoughts, including your progress throughout your health journey. I encourage journaling in the morning for 10 minutes to start your day and before bed to wrap up your day and any lingering thoughts. Some questions you can ask are: Did you set benchmarks? Did you meet those benchmarks? What is in your way of achieving the health that you want? 

People are usually not to blame when we do not accomplish our goals. When we let go of blame (others and ourselves), we open the door to possibilities and avenues of achieving our goals.

To Your Best Health & Life! 

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