Caring for the Caregiver

Caring for yourself is actually one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver. When you are healthy, rested and able to be active, the person you care for will benefit, too.

While caregivers can have high levels of stress and face many issues juggling children, careers and aging parents, there is help available. Do you need some tips to prevent caregiver burnout? Follow these suggestions to learn how to take better care of caregivers:

  • Watch for signs of stress: Rapid heartbeat, stomachaches, headaches or other bodily symptoms can actually be signs of stress and can alert you to a problem. Before the symptoms reveal that your body is under pressure, evaluate your obligations and pace yourself in this new chapter of family life.
  • Talk about your feelings: To achieve balance as a caregiver, it is important to get in touch with your feelings and talk about them with your spouse, friend, pastor or mental health professional. Once you identify your feelings, especially if negative, you can express them in an appropriate manner and make changes that help lower stress.
  • Don’t neglect your own needs: Remember that you are a person first and a caregiver second. If you always put the needs of others - your children, your spouse or your parents - ahead of your personal needs, you will experience compassion fatigue or burnout. Take time to have lunch with a friend, go on long walks or watch a funny TV show to lighten your mood. Eat a healthy diet and get good sleep – probably 7 to 8 hours each night. And be sure to see your doctor regularly as many caregivers ignore their own health needs.
  • Take time for yourself: Most caregivers live for that moment when they can close the door at night and shut out the problems of the day. Take time for prayer, meditation or yoga to help your body and mind relax each evening. Again, be sure to include exercise in your routine to help your body unwind.
  • Learn to accept help from others: Respite care or assistance can help when the pressures of caregiving overwhelm you. Interview sitters and make sure their methods of caregiving are appropriate. Keep their telephone numbers handy and use them before the role of “caregiver” becomes overwhelming.
  • Join a support group:  A caregiving support group is very useful, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed. This group is comprised of sympathetic adults who meet regularly to share caregiving issues, receive support and enjoy friendships. A support group provides an important social outlet and offers skills and support strength to help you at home.
  • Talk to your doctor: If caregiving problems seem too much to handle, ask your doctor to recommend professional help and resources, including psychologists, social workers, local council on aging, geriatric care manager or others. This important support will enable you to set healthy limits and create balance.

In short, take care of yourself, as this will help you take better care of others. Maintain your personal interests, including hobbies and career, so when your help is longer needed, you will return to a full personal life.

Do you need a primary care doctor? Call the Queen’s Referral line at 808-691-7117 to find one.