How To Care For Yourself When You Are The Caregiver

Patients on home health care need a lot of help. If you are the primary caregiver to a loved one, it is important for you to take care of yourself first. It is very difficult to help others when your needs aren't met. Here are some things you can do to nurture yourself while you are taking care of another:

1. Get the support you need. Connect often with other caregivers, friends, and family. Talk to them about your fears, concerns, worries, and successes. Patients often have ups and downs and it can be difficult to handle all the emotions you are experiencing. If you find you are really struggling, seek professional help. Your home health care company can refer you to someone if you need suggestions. 

2. Be patient with yourself. Burnout can happen really quickly so try to:

  • keep your expectations realistic so you don't become frustrated
  • share the work with other people when you feel overwhelmed
  • forgive yourself for any mistakes you make (because there will be mistakes) and see them as learning opportunities
  • say "no" when you feel like you can't handle something new 

3. Take extra good care of yourself. You need to:

  • eat healthy meals and snacks regularly (don't skip any!)
  • keep doing at least a few of the things that you enjoy
  • take time off without feeling guilty about it
  • meditate, listen to music, go on walks, and enjoy quiet time when you need it 

4. Take care of your back. Most caregivers are required to do at least some heavy lifting. You may have to help the patient get in and out of bed, give them a shower, change their diapers, roll them over, etc. Go to the chiropractor regularly, do some stretches every day, learn how to lift correctly, and pay attention to any new pain you experience. You definitely don't want to cause any permanent damage!

5. Ask a close friend or family member to keep an eye on you. Sometimes it is difficult to notice changes in ourselves. Have someone who knows you really well watch for:

  • personality changes
  • irritability 
  • a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy 
  • exhaustion or lethargy
  • excess anger 
  • an inability to concentrate 

You may ignore these signs or downplay their seriousness if left on your own. Having someone you trust mention them may encourage you to change how you are doing things or seek help. 

If you are a caregiver, make sure that you take care of yourself first. If you need help with care-giving, contact service like Devoted Guardians.