Caring for Yourself When Caring for Others
Strategies for taking care of your needs while caring for a loved one
If you are a caregiver for a chronically ill, disabled or elderly family member, you are not alone – nearly a third of the U.S. population provides such care during any given year, spending an average of 20 hours a week on caregiving, according to the Caregiver Action Network.
As a caregiver, you know first-hand the challenges of finding balance in your life while caring for someone else. Juggling your own personal and family obligations as well as those of the person whom you’re caring for can be difficult and sometimes feel impossible.
As a result, it’s not uncommon to neglect your own needs and become depressed, frustrated, exhausted and physically ill. Sadly, caregiver burnout also can result in resentment of and anger towards the person you’re caring for and – in the worst-case scenario – unintentional abuse or neglect of that elderly or disabled loved one.
By making self-care a priority, you are not only helping yourself as an individual, but also as a family member and caregiver. Here are some strategies for taking care of yourself in the midst of caregiving:
Focus on healthy habits
Do what you can to get enough rest and quality sleep, including taking naps when you can.
Incorporate exercise into your regular routine, even if it’s just in short stints.
Avoid junk food and fast food and eat nutritious meals and snacks.
Drink plenty of water and don’t overdo caffeinated beverages.
Don’t postpone your own regular medical check-ups.
Avoid abusing tobacco, alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications.
Ask for hands-on help from others
Adopt an attitude of being willing to accept help from others. Avoid the mindset that you are the only one qualified to take care of your loved one.Create a plan for respite care so you can have breaks from caregiving.
Enlist friends and family members of all ages to help with tasks such as grocery shopping, housework, yard work and taking your loved one to appointments and out recreationally.
Explore the possibility of contracting home care or home health care for your loved one.
Consider investing in healthcare-related devices like personal emergency response systems, or PERS, which can give you more peace of mind.
Get emotional, psychological and spiritual support
At least once a day – preferably for at least 30 minutes – engage in an activity that gives you joy, such as reading, watching television, listening to or playing music or participating in a hobby like gardening or crafting.
Carve out some time every day to sit quietly by yourself. Include meditation, prayer or inspirational readings if those activities are enjoyable and fulfilling to you.
Realize that a range of emotions come with caregiving.
Participate in caregiving support groups. Communities of caregivers can be found both online and throughout our region.
By taking care of yourself while you are taking care of someone else, you can reduce your stress and lessen the chances for negative impacts, allowing you to feel more joy and satisfaction with the labor of love that is caregiving.
Caregiver Action Network at caregiveraction.org
Family Caregiving Alliance at caregiver.org
- National Alliance for Caregiving at caregiving.org
- Respite care advice at aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2017/respite-care-plan.html