Caregivers: How to Take Care of Yourself


“How can I take care of myself when my time is spent caring for my aging parents and family?  Good news is that you are not alone. This is a common feeling among caregivers. As a caregiver, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself when you are focused on taking care of everybody else. The job is not easy and the work is seemingly endless, leaving little time for relaxation. Taking care of yourself, however, is key to maintaining your health and the quality of care being given.

To help, here are a few tips to ensure you maintain a healthy mind and body:

  • Breathe: It may seem simple, but next time you feel stressed take a minute to breathe. As a caregiver, it is hard to find a moment for yourself. From taking the kids to school to working all day to visiting your loved ones’ in the evening, there are never enough hours in the day. Therefore, regardless of where you are,take a moment to count to ten and breathe, deeply inhaling and exhaling to release tension. Listening to calming music, such as nature sounds or even a favorite musician, can also be therapeutic and help take your mind off the stress of the day.
  • Take a Day for Yourself: It’s easy to let caring for an ill family member monopolize your time. Taking a day off to relax lets you re-energize and regroup after months, or even years, of continuous stress. Though it may seem hard to do, it is extremely important to take a well-deserved day off to spend time with family and friends. Getting a manicure with a friend or having dinner with a spouse are excellent ways to get your mind off of everyday demands. It will also allow you to focus on a topic other than caregiving and family life for a day
  • Get a Checkup: With all of the doctor’s appointments and at-home nurse visits for your children and ill loved-one, it is easy to forget that you also need to visit a doctor for a yearly physical. Visiting your doctor is important for both your mental and physical health. Doctors can watch for signs of mental health issues, including depression. Tell your doctor about the stress you are under so he can take the necessary steps to help you if needed.
  • Join a Support Group: Joining a support group is an excellent way to meet new people going through similar situations. Support groups are offered for all types of causes, from cancer to Alzheimer’s to Autism. Many local hospitals offer a variety of support groups, and often local governments and libraries hold weekly support group meetings. If joining a support group interests you, use your favorite search engine (Google, Yahoo, etc.) to search for “caregiver support groups in my area.” You can also call your local hospital or library to inquire about dates and times of meetings.
  • Ask for Help: Do not be afraid to ask for help! While you may feel a sense of pride in taking care of your loved ones, sometimes the task gets to be too much for one person. If you start to feel overwhelmed, ask a close family member or family friend for help. If they agree to help, be sure you prepare your loved-one a few days in advance, especially if he or she suffers from dementia.   This will help ensure there are no surprises for your loved-one, or added stress for you.

As a caregiver, what helps you relax and de-stress? Share your suggestionsin the comments below!