Tips for Taking Care of Yourself as a Caregiver

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As a caregiver it is vital that you care for yourself. Too often caregivers think they are being selfish when they put themselves first. It’s important to discern between selfishness and self-care. Sometimes caregivers forget to breathe and come up for air. They are so busy doing the caring that the basics of a healthy life get pushed by the wayside.

Which of these things are you doing or not doing? What will you start doing today?

  • Eating healthy
  • Staying active
  • Getting fresh air
  • Exercising
  • Taking time for yourself doing what YOU want to do
  • Connecting with friends
  • Receiving enough sleep
  • Joining a caregivers support group
  • Sharing responsibilities with family or friends
  • Participating in a hobby or activity that makes you happy
  • Talking to your doctor about your physical and mental health concerns
  • Dealing with frustration and guilt

Sharing Caregiving Responsibilities

Caregivers cannot do it alone. It often requires teamwork. But how do you build the team? How do you get everyone on board to help with the care?

Talk About It

Set up a family meeting and include the care recipient if it makes sense to do so. It’s best to do this at a calm time, not in the middle of an emergency. Try to define the responsibilities. Write down what kind of care is wanted and needed. Figure out what needs to happen now and might be needed in the future. This can help avoid confusion and resentment.

Decide who will be responsible for which tasks. Usually it’s helpful to name a primary caregiver, even if it’s not needed right away. This helps if there is a crisis and the primary person can step in. The most important part is to agree ahead of time which tasks are best suited to everyone’s skills and interests. Figure out how each person involved can best use their abilities to become an effective team.

The National Institute on Aging recommends being realistic about how much you can do and what you are willing to do. Think about your schedule and how it might be adapted to give respite to a primary caregiver. For example, you might try to coordinate holiday and vacation times. Remember that over time, responsibilities may need to be revised to reflect changes in the situation, your care recipient’s needs, and each family member’s abilities and limitations.

Sometimes the caregiving team may live in the same area but sometimes the team (siblings, parents, friends) may live far away. Long-distance caregivers can have an important role, too, providing relief and support to the primary caregivers.

Identify Your Strengths
  • Are you good at finding information, keeping people
  • up-to-date on changing conditions, and offering cheer, whether on the phone or with a computer?
  • Are you good at supervising and leading others?
  • Are you comfortable speaking with medical staff and
  • interpreting what they say to others?
  • Is your strongest suit doing the numbers—paying bills,
  • keeping track of bank statements, and reviewing insurance policies and reimbursement reports?
  • Are you the one in the family who can fix anything, while no one else knows the difference between pliers and a wrench?
Recognize Your Limits
  • How often, both mentally and financially, can you afford
    to travel?
  • Are you emotionally prepared to take on what may feel like a reversal of roles between you and your parent — taking care of your parent instead of your parent taking care of you? Can you continue to respect your parent’s independence?
  • Can you be both calm and assertive when communicating from a distance?
  • How will your decision to take on caregiving responsibilities affect your work and home life?

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