Practicing self-care as a caregiver

When a loved one is diagnosed with a deteriorating health condition requiring daily assistance and support, it’s only natural to focus on that person’s well-being.

Taking on the role of caregiver for a family member or friend is one that often comes without any notice or preparation. Responsibilities can increase over time until they become all-consuming, often leaving other areas of life in neglect. Putting the needs of an ailing loved one first is gracious, but often unhealthy for the caregiver.

Over time, caring for a loved one can result in sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, poor eating habits, and a general failure to care for yourself. But the best way to care for a loved one is to make time for your own physical and emotional wellness.

  • Visit your doctor. You likely spend plenty of time at doctors’ offices already, but be sure to go for at least an annual visit and share any changes in your sleep, behavior, mood, or appetite.
  • Be realistic. Remind yourself that the care you’re providing is helpful but the effects of the health condition are usually beyond your control.
  • Take breaks. Caring for someone is a round-the-clock job with no time off. Without time to yourself, caregiver burnout is inevitable.
  • Ask for help. It’s perhaps most important to accept and recognize when caregiving duties become more than you can handle. There may be a time when professional care or a move to a retirement community can enhance your loved one’s quality of life.

Talking to a friend, family member, or your doctor about how you’re feeling can provide valuable support for those carrying the stress of being a caregiver. Look into local support groups, as well. Paying attention to your own needs is just as important as the care you’re providing.

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