This man’s moving tale shows why caring for others must start with self-care.

“Caregiving is nothing but confusion when you first start out.”

70-year-old Frank Blood, who has been caregiving for his wife, Mary Ann, for almost two decades, adds, “It took me years and years to learn this stuff.”

“The biggest challenge was knowing what was important and what wasn’t.”

Image via Frank Blood, used with permission.

Mary Ann has lived through cancer twice. Most lately, she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary cancer, a lung condition that builds it difficult for her to inhale, as well as vascular dementia, which involves memory loss due to multiple strokes.

The couple has been married for 41 years, and Frank says caregiving for Mary Ann has brought them closer than ever before. He points to one night including with regard to 10 years ago.

“She had chest pains, ” he remembers. “We were driving to the hospital and I seemed over at her and said, ‘You know something? This time I’m scared.’ And she said, ‘Me too.'”

“I didn’t think of it again for about a week probably, but I supposed, ‘Wow. I’ve never opened up like that. I’ve never said anything like that.’ And since then, we start telling one another what’s in the deepest part of our hearts . … There was another level to go to.”

Image via iStock.

Mary Ann isn’t able to move on her own, so she relies on Frank to get her “re ready for” the day, take her from room to room, feed her, and make sure she’s comfy .

Frank also takes all of Mary Ann’s vital sign regularly and even maintains a periodical with her daily medical history.

In his nearly 20 years of caregiving, Frank has discovered one thing that may seem counterintuitive: Taking care of himself actually helps him give Mary Ann the best possible care.

“When we take care of ourselves, ” Frank explains, “Everything else about caregiving becomes much more joyful.”

As a caregiver, preventively caring for your own health going to be able to head off problems down the road.

Image via iStock.

Now, Frank is doing all he can to spread this positive message and his learnings to other caregivers who may be feeling just as lost as he once was .

To do this, he left his task as a sales rep for a building company and started Caregiver Harbor. “I offer free telephone support, ” explains Frank. “A caregiver can call me up and talking here anything they want.” On top of that, he also writes helpful online articles and conducts talks at local libraries and senior centers.

Here are seven of the most valuable things Frank’s learned throughout the years about caring for yourself as a full-time caregiver :

1. Get your energy up and running.

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“I get up really early, ” Frank says with chuckle. “Between 4:30 and 5:00. “

From there, he takes his morning coffee, goes on a leisurely stroll, and then reaches the treadmill for some aerobic exercise.

2. Exercise the mind too.

“I have to have that quiet time in the morning before I start out, ” adds Frank.

After he’s gotten through his workout, he’ll throw in a 15 -minute meditation session to get his mind calm and focused on the present.

3. Pay close attention to your nutrition.( You might forget .)

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This is no doubt one of the hardest proportions for Frank. “Since I have to cook and feed my wife, ” he explains, “either I’m gobbling down food before it gets cold or I don’t feed. The challenge is the amount of time to prepare and eat and clean up.”

In the past, he’d settle on quick bites, such as cookies and candy, to get by. But since he’s prioritized nutrition, he now devours fresh fruit juices and lots of veggies.

4. Never try to do it alone.

“I don’t hesitate to ask for help, ” says Frank. “If somebody volunteers to help me, I never turn it down.”

In particular, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your doctor. They’re there to help you with your health better than anyone. And a good place to start is by getting to know your four health numbers blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body mass index( BMI ).

5. Manage your time to a T.

Image via iStock.

“You just cannot let things happen without some kind of a plan, ” adds Frank.

Each hour of every day is dedicated to a particular activity from his morning routine, to taking Mary Ann’s vitals, to catching up on some Tv with her at the end of the day.

6. Don’t feel guilty for taking a little me-time.

In the beginning, “I felt very guilty about not spending all my period with my spouse, ” Frank explains. This is common for caregivers.

Frank explains that it can take a while for a person to develop the confidence to break away once in a while. But as he got more very well known the subtleties of caregiving, he knew that being there for Mary Ann was about style more than physical presence.

7. It’s OK to have your own life too.

Image via iStock.

Frank keeps his social life healthy by biding active with his church group; he’s also part of the local chamber of commerce and will sometimes volunteer at community events to lend a helping hand.

“I’ll sometimes tell my spouse, ‘No, this is my day. I need it, ‘” explains Frank. “And I have to walk away. That wasn’t possible for a few years.”

At the end of the working day, giving others the best care possible requires a commitment to caring for yourself.

Not sure this is right to start? Take a step forward and visit a health care professional for your annual checkup and learn about your health numbers. Once you have a clear picture on how to better care for yourself, you’ll be able to care for others.

And if you ever feel a little lost along the way, there are people out there like Frank who are always ready to listen and help in any way they can.

Image via Frank Blood, used with permission.

“I simply want to let caregivers know that if I can do it, you can, ” adds Frank. “And you will be very happy if you simply don’t try so hard. Let things happen and take good care of yourself.”

Learn more about how to take control of your health at Cigna.com/ TakeControl .

Read more: www.upworthy.com

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