Self-Care for Family Caregivers

Family cares for each other. This is no more evident than when you look at the number of people who take care of their older family members. In the last decade, approximately 30% of the US population has cared for an elderly or disabled family member, with other countries reporting similar numbers. 

Are you a caretaker of an elderly or disabled loved one in your family? It’s a big responsibility, but you’re not alone! With up to a third of adults in similar roles, there are many resources you can find to help you with this important task. The incredible stress these duties can place on you makes it important to use these resources, and stay healthy in the process. Here are some ways you can take care of yourself as you care for the ones you love. 

Monitor your own health

As you start your care taking duties for a family member, all your attention can get focused on their health needs and concerns. It’s common for family caretakers to experience more heart disease, high blood pressure, and neglect important disease screenings. Don’t let your own health slip while you care for someone else’s. Make sure to attend your regular doctors visits and listen to their advice. 

Take a break

When  you care for a loved one, it can often be a 24/7 job. Some people even feel led to apply to programs that will pay them to care for their family member, instead of working a full time job. For some families, this is the most affordable option. While you may feel like you have to be available to help your family member at all times, it’s important to take a break once in a while. Ask another member of your family, a trusted friend, or even a professional service to spend time with your loved one for a few days a month so you can have some time for yourself. Though you may be tempted to use the time to “catch up” on chores you’ve neglected, resist the urge and use it for something you truly enjoy. Your whole family will benefit from taking individual time each month. 

Ask for a helping hand

If you’ve been put in charge of someone’s daily care, you might feel like you have to “do it all.” This isn’t true! There are services that you can employ that will provide help when you need it, whether it’s a cleaning and laundry service, or a trained in-home care nurse. These programs can be customized to provide just the right amount of help. You could ask for assistance with bathing your family member, for example, or administering tricky medications. A meal service can provide healthy food for them. These are especially helpful if you don’t personally live with the person you are caring for. The more people who are on your “care” team, the less alone you’ll feel. 

Asking for help with a loved one’s care is the most important act you can do to stay healthy, yourself. At some point, you may realize that the tasks required of you are beyond your capability. It’s ok if you reach this point. Oftentimes people can feel like they’ve let their loved ones down, but this isn’t the case at all. You are merely trying to do what’s best for them. Even if you must eventually move your family member to a care facility, the time you spent as their caretaker will be rewarding for your relationship with them.