Tips to Look After Yourself While Caregiving

It's important to keep up your own health while you're taking care of your loved one. You won't be much help to others if you let yourself get stressed and run-down.

Try these tips to help you manage your loved one's care and your own well-being at the same time.

Ask for help. You can't do everything yourself, so don't try. Get other family members and friends involved.

Be specific about what you need. Have your brother do a round of grocery shopping. See if a neighbor can keep an eye on things for half an hour while take a break. Look into community resources and see what sort of help is available.

Get support. If your friends have trouble understanding your situation, join a caregiver support group. You'll meet people who know what you're going through and can offer advice. Try your local area agency on aging to find out about groups near you.

Take care of your body. Make sure you don't ignore your own health. Get regular checkups. Try to eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep.

Stay mentally healthy. Caregiving can be emotionally draining, but you don't want to let that turn into feelings of depression. If you feel overwhelmed, set up an appointment with a counselor or therapist.

Focus on what’s most important. You may sometimes feel like you have more things to do in a day than you have time for. So concentrate on what you have to get done and let the rest go. The world won't end if you put off cleaning out the shed for a few months or if you skip having the New Year's party this year.

Stay connected. Make an effort to keep close to the people you care about. You don't want to let your workload as a caregiver put a strain on your other relationships. Your friends and family can be a huge source of support while you take care of your loved one.

Consider taking a leave from work. Time off from your job may not be an option financially. But remember that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick relative.

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Stay active. Even though you're busy, keep up an exercise routine. Taking time out most days of the week for some physical activity -- even just a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood -- will help improve your mood and increase your energy.

Forgive yourself. It's natural to feel frustrated at times with your loved one. It can sometimes happen from the stress of caregiving. Don't beat yourself up for feeling that way.

Allow yourself some downtime. If you push yourself too hard, you'll burn out. So try to build small breaks into every day and do something special for yourself every week. See a movie with a friend, get a massage, or go for a swim.

Look into respite care. It's a way to give relief for caregivers who need a break. A substitute will fill in for you when you need it. Sometimes it's done by volunteers, sometimes by professionals for a cost. It might be for a few hours or for a few days. Check your local area agency on aging to find out about respite care near you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on May 16, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Administration on Aging: "Because We Care: A Guide for People Who Care."

Family Caregiver Alliance: "Fact Sheet: Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers."

HelpGuide.org: "Help and Resources for Caregivers: Tips for Preventing Caregiver Burnout."

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