How to Take Care of Yourself When You’re the Caretaker

posted: 01/27/16
by: Katie Morton
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Caring for an ill or disabled family member can be a deeply fulfilling experience. However, it can also be extremely emotional and physically taxing (just ask Bill and Jen from "The Little Couple"). Caregiver burnout is a real risk--you're shouldering a lot of responsibility and you need to make sure that you prioritize your own self-care throughout the process. Here are six ways to ensure you keep yourself healthy.

1. Care for yourself first

One of the most important things you can do is put your own needs first. When you're not caring for yourself, you don't have the emotional reserves to care for anyone else. Make an effort to spend 30 minutes each day doing something just for you. You can read a book, take a walk, or get a latte--whatever it is that will give you a boost during your downtime.

2. Don't be afraid to ask for help

Don't make the mistake of thinking you need to do everything yourself. A helper, aide, nurse, or another relative can help out with certain needs. Outsource what you can--groceries, housecleaning, dog walking--anything that makes your burden a little lighter.

3. Join a support group

A support group is a wonderful resource for those taking care of loved ones. They can provide you not only with tips, but also a community of individuals who have gone through the same challenges that you're currently facing. Support groups may also be able to point you in the direction of meal planning services and transportation options.

4. Maintain your own health

A healthy diet and a break for meals can keep you sane. When your mind is racing, it can be hard to settle down for a restful night sleep. Do your best to establish good sleep habits and a schedule so you're keeping your own batteries fully charged and energy levels up.

5. Exercise

When you're stressed and tired, the last thing you feel like doing is exercising. But exercise has been proven to be a great way for combatting those feelings. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes a day to help reduce your stress levels and counter fatigue.

6. Focus on Manageable Goals

In the face of chronic or terminal illness, you can feel helpless and out-of-control. Focus on creating a sense of order by creating lists and taking care of things that can be checked off that list. Whether it's in a notebook or through an app, being able to cross items off a list can be extremely rewarding and will help to boost morale.

Knowing that your own needs are important and will help you maintain your mental and physical strength during this trying time. Remember, you don't have to go it alone--surrounding yourself with loved ones or a community of support goes a long way. The better you feel, the easier it will be.



How Are You Faring as Bill's Caretaker?

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Jen and Bill discuss how caretaking roles have changed at home since he had spine surgery. The couple laughs as they talk about how different Jen's profession as doctor is from her at-home duties as nurse!