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As a home health aide, you need to take care of yourself to take care of others. Unfortunately, that wisdom can get muddled or lost in the home care space.

healthcare worker visiting a senior woman at home helping her use a mobility walker

Establish healthy self-care habits with the tips below.

Schedule Me Time

Most seniors do not live in nursing homes. In fact, only 3.6% do. Unfortunately, most seniors aging in place live alone, but more home health aides are stepping into the picture. With more Americans than ever before growing old and doing it at home, it is important for home care aides and those participating in home health care services to know how to provide the very best care. Surprisingly, providing the best care starts with you.

To be the best version of you, you need to schedule time for yourself. In other words, if you are a home health aide, set aside 30 minutes to an hour every day to relax. Do whatever makes you happy. Kick your feet up and enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. Read a book. Watch Netflix. Just make sure to take that time to unwind.

Spend Time With Friends and Family

Along with spending time alone, it’s essential to spend time with your friends and family as well. Spend time with friends your own age. As much as you may love to help out the elderly in your area, it’s important to spend time with those who are your age. Caregivers spend a lot of time with seniors and people a lot older than them, so don’t forget to call your best friends and have a nice day out on the town once in a while. No matter what you decide to do with your friends, it will allow you to stay present at this point in your life and it is a great way to take care of yourself.

Spend time with family, as well. Family time can be a great stress relief and can help you be yourself again. Sometimes you might get lost in that caregiver mentality, which is okay! But, it’s so important to allow yourself to take a break from being a health aide and spend time with your friends and family once in a while.

Mind Your Health

It is the ultimate irony. Caregivers go out of their way to dutifully care for others’ physical health and end up neglecting their own. Harvard Medical School emphasizes the importance of caregivers staying active. Just 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and boosts energy. If you do not have a full 30 minutes, even 10 or 15 minutes of exercise is beneficial. It is also important to eat a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, avoid smoking and drinking, and go in for a check-up regularly.

Practice Breathing Techniques or Mindfulness

Other tools in your arsenal include breathing techniques, meditation, and mindfulness. Meditation or breathing techniques help you relax and promote an overall sense of calm. Research shows it can pack many more benefits as well. According to a study in 2016, meditation promotes general well-being, gives you more energy, and helps improve memory and focus — all things that are great for you, your health, and your outlook when it comes to maintaining your overall well being as a home health aide.

Those looking for a less formal practice with many of the same benefits can simply opt for deep breathing or “4, 7, 8 breathing” (inhaling for four seconds, holding the breath for seven, and exhaling for eight).

Find Your Community

There are plenty of other caregivers out there in the home health aide field. You do not have to go it alone. Look for in-person support groups or if it fits your schedule better or better suits your tastes, go online to find other people acting in the same role. Social media, discussion forums, or even mobile apps are all great resources to find other people like you.

Check In With Yourself

As a caregiver, you might forget to check in with yourself while checking in with all of the patients you take care of throughout your day, but that can be harmful to you. Checking in with yourself will help prevent burnout and can make sure you aren’t becoming overly stressed. Being overly stressed can lead to sleep deprivation and irritability, which isn’t good. So, take a moment to check in with yourself and ask yourself how you are doing. See if there’s anything you can do to help yourself at that moment and do so. It can be surprising just how much asking yourself how you are and what you need can do for your overall health.

Checking in with yourself also means that you are putting yourself first for a moment. It’s okay to put yourself first and make sure that everything is okay. Even if your job entails putting others first, this doesn’t mean that you can’t do the same for yourself. This will ensure that you are taking care of yourself while taking care of the elderly you care for on a daily basis. Remember that taking care of yourself is the first step to taking care of the seniors in the nursing home you work at.

Taking care of someone else means taking care of you first. Even so, one-third of Americans fail to get enough sleep — and even that seemingly small misstep is drastically affecting our health. Prioritize your diet, exercise, mental health, and overall care — just like you would anyone else’s. Follow these tips and you will be ready to be the best version of you, every day.

couple embracing after receiving in-home care and cdpap

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