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Self-Care for Caregivers

The stress of caring for a loved one during extended and worsening illness can be overwhelming. Whether physical or emotional, the challenges of caring for another as well as for ourselves can feel isolating and frightening. Taking time to care for ourselves is not a selfish act, and is in fact necessary to keep us from experiencing caregiver burnout. Follow these tips below to help maintain perspective and good physical health:

Set and maintain personal boundaries. Whether it's acknowledging that you cannot take on additional duties, or setting aside daily blocks of "do not disturb" time to enjoy a hobby or just to rest, creating boundaries needs to be a clear, deliberate act.

Seek Support. Support can be practical help or a listening ear. Are there people in your network--whether family, friends, or formal support groups--who can help with small tasks? Or who can listen with understanding to what you are experiencing? Find a list of caregiver support options here.

Sleep. This may seem like an elusive goal, but even Shakespeare refers to sleep as the "chief nourisher in life's feast." Sleep science has improved dramatically in the last four hundred years, and we can now say with certainty that sleep works to support physical and mental health in many ways. See what our friends at Mayo Clinic have to say about sleep here.

Be realistic. Part of the stress of caregiving is watching a loved one decline physically and/or mentally. We want to restore them to earlier health, but we are not able to do so. Understanding the progression of disease can help reassure us that we are doing enough, even if our loved one is not "getting better." Caregiving at end of life is a gracious act in itself, and just being present for someone as their needs change can be enough.

Find humor. While illness and end of life are not necessarily the most hilarious experiences, taking a broader perspective can sometimes help us find relief. Consider watching movies or tv shows that bring laughter to you or your caregiving patient. Mayo Clinic offers some benefits of laughter here.

Please reach out if you need a formal respite break from caring for a loved one, or if you would like to discuss how our services can help you cope. Consultations are always free, and our phone is always answered by a real person.

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