How to Care for Someone Else When You Don’t Feel Well
Cold and flu season are in full effect. Hopefully, you’ve already gotten a flu shot to protect you and your caree and are taking precautions to keep yourself healthy. Even if you’re keeping up on germ reduction, unfortunately, caregivers are at risk for getting sick.
Caregiving is physically and emotionally draining and most caregivers don’t take care of themselves, even though they care for others. We tend to put ourselves on the backburner, assuming that we’ll be fine. Did you know that caregivers can have more stress-related health problems than their carees?
Trust me, it isn’t easy caring for someone else when you aren’t well. Whether you constantly catch colds or develop a long-term chronic illness, being sick is difficult and expensive. People tend to take their health for granted until they no longer have it.
So, what can you do if you get sick but still need to do your basic caregiving tasks?
6 Tips for Caregiving While Ill
Here are some tips for getting through the day, or week, when you aren’t feeling well but still have caregiving tasks to manage.
- Lower your standards: I recently went out of town, leaving my husband alone with our 3 year old and 7 year old. My mom asked how my husband did and my response was, everyone was alive and fed. This needs to be where you set the bar when you are sick. As long as your caree is alive and fed, you’re good. Their house doesn’t have to be cleaned when you are sick. The laundry can wait until you’re better. Pretty much most tasks can wait until you feel better.
- Prep ahead before you get sick: It may be too late the first time you get sick, but when you feel better, prepare yourself for the next time. Pre-make and freeze a few casseroles or soups so that you can just heat and eat the next time you feel sick. You can also keep your home stocked with some pre-made meals (frozen meals, canned soup, pasta sauce and pasta).
- Stop germ spread: Try to keep you illness contained so that you don’t have to deal with caring for a sick caree when you’re on the mend. Wash your hands frequently, clean doorknobs, light switches and other frequently touched surfaces with sanitizer. Also make sure your caree gets enough rest, eats well and constantly washes his/her hands.
- Let your caree care for you: At some point in your life, your caree probably cared for you. Allow them the opportunity to do this again if they are able. Maybe they bring you tea or snacks or even their famous chicken soup. They’ll enjoy having the opportunity to care for your and feel useful.
- Cancel what you can: If your caree has follow up medical appointments or physical therapy appointments, consider pushing them back a week. It is in everyone’s best interest to not have a sick person shuttling them around or hanging out in a waiting room.
- Enlist help: This is the time to ask for help. Ask your family, friends, neighbors or anyone who has offered to help in the past for some help. Maybe you need a prescription picked up – ask the pharmacy or a neighbor. Do you need meals delivered to your parent? Ask a family member or friend. Don’t feel guilty about this. You can always pay it forward the next time you’re well.
How To Avoid Getting Sick
It is really difficult to avoid getting sick when you are burning the candle at both ends. Taking better care of yourself is essential to your health and well-being. You know what you need to do to stay healthy, but it is hard to do when you’re so busy caring for others.
These are your reminders:
- Eat healthy: You don’t have to eat organic, healthy fresh foods all the time. Just take some time to take some health shortcuts.
- Exercise: No, you don’t need to start hitting the gym every day for an hour. Just squeezing in a bit of regular exercise can provide health benefits. Start taking a walk when you have free time. Do some stretches and strength training at home – whatever it takes to stay physically active.
- Practice Self-Care: Constant stress can lead to health problems. Try incorporating self-care into your day or week to help relieve stress.
- Sleep Well: Practice good sleep hygiene to get a good night’s rest. Not getting enough sleep results in many health problems.
- Pop Vitamins: It can be hard to get all of the nutrients you need from food alone, especially if you aren’t able to cook regular healthy meals. Add vitamin supplements, especially vitamin C, to your self-care routine. You may also want to consider upping your vitamin intake if you are feeling a bit under the weather or around people who are sick. My favorite is EmergenC, but my brother loves Zicam and Airborne.
- Avoid Germs: If your caree or someone in your home is sick, follow my advice above for keeping yourself healthy. Wash your hands frequently and wipe down frequently touched surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes.
Caregiving while sick is difficult so give yourself space to rest and take care of yourself. I have made the mistake of pushing through illness and it rarely ends well. The holiday season was always my busiest time with work. It was also busy with family.
For three years straight, I worked myself so hard that I ended up getting too sick to enjoy the holidays. One year I got the flu (despite a flu shot), a double ear infection, bronchitis and pink eye – all at the same time. Our bodies tend to tell us when it has had enough. Don’t push your body so far that it sets off alarms to slow you down.
Caregiving is a marathon, not a race.