Self-Care for Caregivers

Between doctors’ appointments, dispensing medication, helping your loved one complete daily tasks, managing the household, providing meals, and more, it’s all too easy to feel overburdened, overstressed, and overwhelmed.

Because of the constant stress, caregivers often suffer from such things as fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and a lowered immune system.

Here are some tips courtesy of on how to care for yourself while caring for another person.

  • Get advice on caregiving from experienced caregivers. You may feel that you’re the only one going through what you’re going through. Caregiving requires that you change your lifestyle dramatically as you learn new information, adjust to your daily routine, and take on more responsibilities. Rest assured that you’re not alone and that many other people have walked in your shoes. Even if your situations aren’t identical, people can still share valuable advice and insight with you.
  • Accept that as a caregiver, you need help. It’s important to decide what tasks you can and can’t do and how much time and energy you have. You can’t do it all, especially in an intensive caregiving situation. Communicate with your family and friends about what you need.
  • Control the caregiving situation, rather than letting it control you. Although you have volunteered to take care of someone else’s needs, be sure to set boundaries. You have the right to be understood and to make sure your own needs are being met to protect yourself from burnout.
  • Make every effort to live your own life. Don’t let being a caregiver consume you. Make sure to spend time with friends and family and be involved with hobbies and activities. When your life revolves around caregiving only, your mental, emotional, and physical health can suffer.
  • Have daily private time. Depending on how great your loved one’s needs are, you must take time for yourself. You may feel that you are overwhelmed by enough tasks to keep you busy throughout the whole day. But for your own well-being, it’s crucial that you set aside time to take care of your own needs and desires.
  • Keep mentally and physically fit. You can handle the caregiving role if you preserve your mental and physical health. Get lots of exercise regularly.
  • Learn to say “no.” If you’re around someone who’s not well, you will have a lot of responsibilities, which is expected. As a caregiver, you are agreeing to do things the sick person can’t do. It’s important to understand, though, that you can’t say “yes” to everything. While you may be the healthy one, you still have physical and mental limits. And when you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll end up stretching yourself too thin, and perhaps even harming yourself or your loved one.
  • Encourage your loved one to do some things for themselves. Try to identify what they can manage without becoming overwhelmed and exhausted. Some examples could be paying bills, folding laundry while seated, and sorting medication.
  • Prepare yourself when your patience becomes exhausted. Some days you may become frustrated because your loved one is not compliant. Other days, the constant demands of caregiving might weigh you down so that you reach the end of your rope. When this happens, do what is necessary to collect yourself, even if you have to take a break for a few minutes or leave the room. You can’t always control the person’s behavior, but you can control your own response.

— Julie Guirgis