CEMM Virtual Library

The Caregiver's Journey

Your Physical Health

Sleep

If you don’t get enough sleep, you are likely to be tired and irritable during the day. You also may find it hard to concentrate. Studies show that people who do not get enough sleep are less productive, tend to overeat, and are even more likely to get in accidents.

Try these tips for getting a comfortable night’s sleep:

  • Establish a routine for when you go to bed and when you get up every day. This can reinforce your body’s sleep/wake cycle.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a bath, read a book, or find another activity that helps you shift from your busy daytime life to restful sleep.
  • Go to bed when you’re tired and turn out the lights. If you can’t fall asleep, get up and do something else until you’re tired.
  • Do not rely on sleeping pills. Check with your doctor before taking any sleep medications, as they can interact with other medications or a medical condition. You may have an underlying sleep disorder that requires treatment.
  • Don’t exercise close to bedtime. It may make it harder to fall asleep.
  • If you are having trouble sleeping, use the tips above to ease your concerns.
  • Avoid too much alcohol and caffeine. Too much of either usually reduces the quality of sleep.
  • Have someone stay over to take over the care duties during the night.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is one that is low in fat, high in fiber from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and includes lean cuts of meat, poultry, eggs and other protein sources. A healthy diet also helps you to maintain a healthy weight.

It can be tempting to overeat. Do not use food as a comfort when you are stressed and sad. You may gain unwanted weight.

Use low-calorie versions of comfort foods, e.g., sugar-free hot chocolate, or find other ways to comfort yourself, such as a hot bath or a good book.

Exercise

Exercise can relieve stress, reduce depression, make you feel better about yourself, help you maintain your weight, and give you some time alone.

It doesn’t have to be strenuous. A 30-minute walk on most days is usually enough to protect your health. You can break the 30 minutes into shorter 10-minute segments, if that’s all the time you have.

If you already have an exercise routine in place, try to stick with it. Doing things that were important to you before the TBI can help you cope. You will be a better caregiver.

If you are new to exercise, check with your personal health care provider and start out slowly. Remember to include stretching and strength building in your routine.

There are many exercise videos that you can use at home. You don’t need to find the time or money to go to a gym.

Tobacco Use

If you don’t use tobacco products, don’t start. Find other ways to cope with the stress.

If you use tobacco products, stress may increase your tobacco use. If you use tobacco products, it may be difficult to quit during periods of stress, such as when you are learning to care for someone with TBI.

Your goal right now may be simply to not increase the number of tobacco products you use each day.

Later, you may want to start cutting down on the number of tobacco products and then quit altogether.

The nicotine in tobacco is addictive. Most smokers find it takes several attempts to quit before they are successful. Ask your doctor about medications or programs that can help you quit.

Alcohol and Drugs

When life is stressful, you may find it difficult to solve problems, make decisions, and take care of yourself.

Some people turn to alcohol or other drugs to help them relax. Alcohol tends to make problems worse.

Using alcohol or drugs to make you feel better in the short term can be dangerous. You can become dependent on these substances. This will interfere with your responsibilities to your family.

If you drink, do so in moderation (i.e., one drink per day for women, two drinks per day for men). Find other ways to relieve stress and to reward yourself for doing a hard job well.

Routine Medical Care

Remember, you can’t take care of someone else well unless you are strong and healthy.

This includes getting routine medical and dental care, such as preventive screenings (e.g., mammograms, blood pressure checks) and regular attention to medical problems that you may have.

It’s okay to have your family member with TBI sit in the waiting room while you see the doctor, dentist, or other provider if he or she is able. Or make plans for care if he or she cannot be left alone.

If you become sick, worn down, or burned out, you will not be able to provide good care to your family member.
 

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