Carer alert : Focus on you own health first

As about half of Kiwi seniors being cared for at home are being looked after by their partners, it is important carers prioritise their own health and self-care.

Older New Zealand carers cope better through good health, social connection and greater life satisfaction.

New Zealand’s Healthy Ageing Strategy supports older people to age well in the community. So, if you’re caring at home for a partner, you’re far from alone, because around 50 per cent of seniors being cared for at home are cared for by their partner.

Without prioritising your own health, though, you won’t have the energy to provide sustained support on a daily basis or over extended periods of time. Over time, your caring tasks may increase as the person you care for needs more help.

Here are some ways you can keep well while caring for others:

  • Your weight may change because of your role as a carer. Changes in foods you choose, activity and stress may lead to weight loss or gain. Maintaining a healthy body weight by regularly eating a variety of foods as well as drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, will support you to keep healthy.
  • Bulk cooking meals and freezing leftovers or choosing prepared meals or meal delivery services are all great ways to simplify food preparation. These time-saving alternatives release you to focus on key caring activities, or give you some space for yourself that may help improve your quality of life and that of the person you care for.
  • Exercise is a great way to take some time out for yourself, to relax and have a change of scenery. Try to make time to exercise daily, aiming for 150 minutes a week (this may sound a lot, but it’s only five sets of 30-minute strolls, or 15 lots of 10-minute breaks across a whole week). Short chunks of exercise, such as walking for 10 minutes between caring tasks, all add up and make a real difference. Taking care of yourself first will help you care for your partner in the long run.
First published: Nov 2018

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