Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Finding Strength as a Caregiver

Caring for an ill or elderly loved one requires a tremendous amount of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. For many, religion and faith are an important source of strength and solace.

Sometimes, the effects of illness and the demands of caregiving can cut people off from their spiritual lives. But even if your loved one's health makes it impossible to attend religious services, you can still keep spirituality central. For instance, you can:

Recommended Related to Mental Health

When Too Much Shopping Becomes a Problem

Shopaholics are often born innocently enough. For Lynn Braz, for instance, shopping was a bona fide hobby until a pair of family tragedies pushed her over the edge. "When my sister died, the shopping went out of control," says the 47-year-old San Francisco writer. "The next thing I bought was going to be the magical thing that was going to fix me and make me feel good." Let's face it, shopping can feel good. But beware: Although the uplift is real, a blue mood may short-circuit your ability to spot...

Read the When Too Much Shopping Becomes a Problem article > >

  • Read passages from religious books.
  • Arrange for a member of the clergy or a parish lay minister to visit.
  • Play sacred music.
  • Watch church services on television.
  • Continue meaningful rituals, such as prayers before meals.
  • Enjoy a sunrise or sunset together.
  • Pray together.
  • Sing familiar hymns.
  • Use services and liturgies that the person remembers.

Your upbringing and your culture -- and your loved one's -- will shape the kind of care you provide, too. The "right" approach to caregiving varies from family to family.

Some cultures encourage an extended network of family relations -- extending to cousins, aunts, uncles, and even neighbors and friends -- that you can rely on to help you take care of your loved one. Others don't have that natural framework for support and have to find help in other ways.

Gender roles play a powerful role in caregiving. Women usually wind up doing the bulk of the caregiving for older relatives.

Ultimately, you have to find a way to balance the expectations of your loved one -- and your family and culture -- with your own needs. Honoring all of loved one's wishes and beliefs would be nice, but it's not always feasible. You have to take care of yourself to keep strong.

Remember that you can't do this alone -- even if your loved one might prefer you did. Get help. If you shoulder too much of the responsibility yourself, you're at serious risk of burning out. That would have terrible consequences for both of you.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on December 10, 2012

Today on WebMD

Hands breaking pencil in frustration
Quiz
Woman looking out window
Article
 
woman standing behind curtains
Article
Pet scan depression
Slideshow
 
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
Article
Plate of half eaten cakes
Article
 
Phobias
Slideshow
mother kissing newborn
Slideshow
 
Woman multitasking
Article
thumbnail_tired_woman_yawning
Article
 
door knob to lever converter
Slideshow
Woman relaxing with a dog
Feature
 

WebMD Special Sections