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Self-Care for Family Caregivers

As a family caregiver, you dedicate your time and energy to supporting your elderly loved ones. However, it's very easy to overlook your own needs when you’re caring for someone else’s.

Caring for others is a big responsibility that can be emotionally and physically taxing. As a result, family caregivers often prioritize their loved ones’ needs over their own. This self-care guide is designed to help you prioritize your own wellbeing so that you can avoid caregiver burnout and continue to provide the best possible care for your loved ones.

The Importance of Self-Care for Family Caregivers

Self-care is not an indulgence – it’s a necessity. Caregiving can be a physically, mentally, and emotionally draining experience for many people. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, those responsibilities can take a toll on your wellbeing in a variety of ways.

  • Up to 70% of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression.
  • 22% of caregivers are exhausted when they go to bed.
  • Chronic stress can put caregivers at greater risk for cognitive decline.
  • Nearly twice as many caregivers are in poor health, suffer from a chronic condition, or have a disability compared to non-caregivers.
  • 11% of caregivers reported that their health got worse because of their caregiving responsibilities.
  • 72% of caregivers don’t go to the doctor as often as they should, and 55% missed doctors’ appointments.

Whether it’s due to fatigue, caregiver guilt, or some other reason, it’s common for people to sacrifice their own wellbeing to support their loved ones. Taking care of yourself is neither selfish nor a waste of time – it’s a critical part of supporting yourself and giving yourself the energy and resilience needed to care for your loved one.

Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

Taking time to care for yourself is a great way to replenish your energy, manage stress, and take other steps to help you be an effective caregiver. Self-care encompasses a few different aspects of your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing

Whether you need to focus on one or more of these areas, it’s important to address all your personal needs. The following practices and activities can help you take the steps necessary to promote your overall health and happiness.

Physical self-care

  • Regular exercise. Physical activity has significant health benefits for your body and mind. Start with an activity you really enjoy, such as walking or yoga so that exercise feels more like something you like to do instead of just another responsibility.
  • Maintain a nutritious diet. Healthy eating habits can help you feel better and lower your risk for various diseases. Try stocking up on healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and enjoying smaller meals throughout the day to avoid overeating.
  • Stay hydrated. Proper hydration supports everything from stamina to brain health. Try drinking water before you get thirsty and consider carrying a reusable water bottle around to encourage regular hydration.
  • Get plenty of rest. Sleep is your body’s way to recharge, both physically and mentally. Prioritize getting enough quality sleep and take breaks when needed.
  • Seek medical care. Take time to attend to your own medical needs. Make sure to see your doctor for regular preventative checkups and don’t hesitate to consult them for any physical concerns. 

Emotional and mental self-care

  • Manage stress. Too much stress can have a direct impact on your body, mood, and behavior. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or journaling when you feel that stress is starting to get to you.
  • Enjoy some hobbies and activities. Having fun is good for your overall wellbeing. Make time to pursue activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, such as reading, gardening, or listening to music.
  • Make time for social interactions. While you can have a good time hanging out with your loved one, it’s important to hang out with other people you know. Studies have shown that participating in social events can boost your mood, reduce risk for chronic disease, and increase the chances you’ll make healthier choices.
  • Set boundaries. Too many responsibilities or requests can overwhelm you if you’re not careful. Don’t be afraid to say no and share caregiving duties so that you can prioritize your own self-care needs.
  • Seek emotional support. It’s important to remember that while caregiving can feel like a lot, you’re not alone. Consider joining a caregiver support group or talking to a therapist so that you can express how you feel in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Practice self-compassion. Don’t forget to remind yourself that you’re doing a great job. Celebrate your efforts and successes, no matter how small.

Take Care of Yourself So That You Can Better Care for Your Loved One

Self-care is not a luxury. You deserve to care for yourself as much as you care for your loved ones. By prioritizing self-care, you’ll have the energy, resilience, and emotional strength to continue being an amazing caregiver.

While self-care is an important part of the caregiving journey, sometimes you need a helping hand. Don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends to share caregiving responsibilities more evenly. You may also want to consider if your loved one is better suited for professional help. Assistance from an in-home private duty caregiver or short-term respite care in an assisted living community can alleviate your workload while helping your loved one get the care they deserve. 

Looking for senior living communities for your loved one? National Church Residences owns or operates more than 340 senior housing communities in 25 states and can help you find a community that helps your loved one live their ideal lifestyle.

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