The Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers

Author and caregiver June Duncan is back with a new article for us on the importance of taking care of yourself, the caregiver.  We see it all the time where it ends up that the caregiver is the one that gets sick, sometimes in very serious ways.  Paying attention to the warning signs and making adjustments to your routine can make all the difference.  Read the whole article below for helpful suggestions to manage the burden of being a full time caregiver and stay healthy in the process.

Here is June’s article“The Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers”


 Photo: Unsplash 

As a caregiver, you have one of the most selfless jobs on the planet. Each day requires a lot of hard work and focus, and it can be hard to remember to take care of yourself during this time. While your loved one needs your attention, it’s also important to practice self-care so that you can be the best possible caregiver. Not looking after yourself can lead to consequences such as sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and an overall decline in health. Here are a few ways that you can treat yourself while also looking after your loved one.

Take time for fun activities

When you’re spending time as a caregiver, it’s important to take breaks and incorporate fun into your lives. This will not only improve your loved one’s well-being, but your own well-being. Try new activities or hobbies that have been on your to-do list. These don’t have to be activities that require a lot of energy. Whether it’s taking art classes or learning how to play a musical instrument, these classes can provide the healing your loved ones need to get through their treatment. The Kids & Art Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides arts workshops to children with cancer and their care circles to improve their well-being during treatment, as survivors, and in bereavement.

  Manage your stress

 A caregiver’s job is never easy, and it can come with stressful days. It’s all about how you view it, half-full or half-empty. Start with a positive state of mind. If you start to experience forgetfulness, sleep problems or irritability, ask yourself what’s causing you to feel stress. Is a certain task you have to complete or a disagreement you’re frustrated about?

 Trying to change things that are outside of your control will just increase frustration. Instead, pay attention to what you can change, and know that small things can make a big difference. As HomeAdvisor suggests, even minor changes to your living space can go a long way toward promoting better sleep, enhancing your exercise routine, or making meal prep less of a chore.

 Remember to ask for help

 How often have people asked you how they can be of assistance and you’ve replied that you’re fine? Know that’s it’s ok to ask for help when you need it. Letting someone else share the workload doesn’t make you weak or a sub-par caregiver. Know that you’re not burdening anyone by asking for assistance. People generally mean it when they say they are free to help.  You can find help in friends, family or community resources. Don’t wait to ask for help until you’re exhausted and overworked. Be proactive and make a list of things you need completed and find people who are willing to help. It will help you balance the tasks you need checked off and make you a better caregiver in the process.

 Talk to a physician

 According to Family Caregiver Alliance, 37 percent of caregivers administer medications, injections, and medical treatment to the person for whom they care. Remember to keep in contact with your patient’s physician, and ask for advice about medications and treatments. Before you go to appointments, make a list of questions you want to ask to be sure you get all of them answered.

 You should also try and make these appointments to match your own needs. Go in at times that are slow, like in the morning or after lunch, to make sure you have a chance to chat with the doctor. While you’re talking to a physician, be sure to bring up your own health. If you’re feeling stressed, tired, or overwhelmed, let your physician know. They may be able to give you recommendations on how to manage your stress and improve your well-being, like adopting an exercise plan or changing your diet.

 Ultimately, you are responsible for more than just your loved ones health and wellness. Not only will self-care contribute to your quality of life, it will allow you to remain in the role of caregiver longer. So think of it as part of the job, and make it a priority.

June Duncan, is the author of The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers. 
June Duncan
Author and Caregiver