Self-Care for Caregivers

Document created by kbass on Dec 28, 2016Last modified by mcunningham on Mar 22, 2017
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Caring for someone who is sick can be difficult and stressful. Exhaustion is common for caregivers. It is not selfish to take care of yourself – your loved one may worry about you and your health. If there are people who want to help, it will be a gift to them to accept. These are some suggestions as you care for yourself in order to provide better care for your loved one. Other families have found these tips to be helpful.


Caregivers often do not ask for or accept help because they may:

  • Feel that asking for help makes them weak
  • Feel they are the only one who can do things
  • Feel they “should” be able to do everything alone
  • Feel that others can't or won't help
  • Feel a sense of pride
  • Have always taken care of others


Take care of your own health

  • Ask for and accept help
  • Family, friends, neighbors, a church, hospice volunteer, home care aide or senior citizen’s center can provide help
  • Renew your energy
  • Walking, household chores or outside work such as gardening, are all forms of exercise
  • Get enough rest
  • Rest can come in small amounts
  • For example, take a break when your loved one is resting; use a baby monitor, watch TV or rest when others are there to help
  • Manage stress
    • Practice deep breathing, meditation and other relaxation techniques
    • Listen to music or read
  • Focus on what you can control
    • Stay in the present rather than living in the past or future
    • Talk about your fears
  • Eat healthy foods
    • Do not forget to eat – food is energy; your body cannot continue to function without nutrition
    • Watch the amount of caffeine in soft drinks, coffee, tea and chocolate
  • Avoid harmful habits
  • Visit your doctor as needed
    • Listen to your doctor’s advice


Take small breaks

It is important to have your own time in order to gain energy and think more clearly

  • Get away occasionally
    • Church service, haircuts, shopping, movies, entertainment or gardening
    • Do something you enjoy or something new
  • Be specific – when people offer to help, keep a list of what others can do. Examples: Do laundry, mow the grass, make a meal or provide company for the patient
  • Remember those things that brought you joy
  • Be gentle with yourself and allow for enjoyable activities
  • Attend a caregiver or support group, if available, to share with others who may have similar experiences


Recognize your limits

  • Although everyone has limits, this will be different for each person
  • As the patient’s needs increase, you may have limited energy
  • Realize that you can’t do everything
  • At other times in our lives, we accept having limits. In caregiving, we may have difficulty accepting our limits.


Take care of your emotional needs

Strong feelings are normal at this time and you may experience a wide range of emotions.

  • Even though you may get rest and eat healthy, you still need to pay attention to how you are feeling
  • Be gentle with yourself
  • Treat yourself as you would a good friend
  • Find a place to cry
  • Find ways to express your anger safely
  • Keep a positive attitude
  • Continue to laugh and have fun; try to find humor in day-to-day activities
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Share thoughts, feelings and fears with people you trust
  • Find others you can visit
  • Write in a journal
  • Scrapbook, make a video, share photos and stories


Be aware that others may stop visiting

  • Try to stay connected / involved with activities you enjoy.
  • Realize that family members may not be able to provide support due to their own difficulty dealing with the illness. This may be hard to understand and can cause conflicts in families.
  • Reach out by phone, mail, email, websites or chat rooms; attend support groups, talk to other caregivers.
  • Have someone from church come to visit.


Counseling is available

  • It may be helpful to see a bereavement counselor or other professional counselor 


Support is helpful

  • Support can include your friends, neighbors, members of faith community, senior citizens’ centers, extended family or hospice team


Remember your spiritual needs

  • Try to find a place in your home that allows you to find some peace, renew energy and think more clearly
  • Use prayer, meditation, music, devotionals and spiritual readings
  • Attend religious services


Created by the Patient and Family Education CommitteeBluegrass Care Navigators Logo

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