Caregivers, Don't Forget to Care for Yourselves!

Caregivers, Don't Forget to Care for Yourselves!

If you’re a caregiver to your spouse, parent, child or other loved one, be proud! Your efforts enhance the quality of that person's life.

This gift you give every single day is recognized during National Family Caregivers Month every November.

However, there can be a downside to the role of caregiver. At times, do you find yourself so concerned about your care recipient that you completely forget about your own needs? You may become exhausted, emotionally stressed or ill – and if your own quality of life suffers, so does your ability to care for someone else. Take the time to consider your needs, and keep in mind you’re not alone – 90 million Americans have the role of family caregiver, according to the Caregiver Action Network.

Care for the Caregiver

You owe it to yourself and to your family to stay healthy – both physically and emotionally. Here's how to make your own well-being a priority:

  • Try to get enough sleep and rest.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fats.
  • Make time to exercise and stay physically fit.
  • Have periodic health checkups. Tell your doctor you are a caregiver and discuss any symptoms of depression or sickness you may be having.
  • Do not abuse alcohol and drugs.
  • Spend time with family and friends. Social activities can help you feel connected and may reduce stress.
  • Pursue your own interests.
  • Seek support from family, friends, professionals, your religious advisor or other organizations – or join a support group for caregivers in your situation.
  • Ask for and accept help. Use appropriate in-home and community-based services.
  • Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine.
  • Take one day at a time.

Pay Attention to Your Emotions

Just as hunger lets you know that you need food, emotions can let you know when you need assistance or support. Remember, it’s OK to feel angry, frustrated, sad or inadequate from time to time. Having these feelings is completely normal, and almost every caregiver experiences them at some point. If you feel stressed, angry or depressed:

  • Remove yourself from the situation by walking away, even if it’s just around the house.
  • Talk to someone you feel close to or call a hotline.
  • Talk with your doctor or other health professional.
  • Write your feelings down in a journal.

If you find that you’re often angry or depressed, or that your emotions are getting out of control, you may benefit from counseling, respite care, caregiver support groups and other supportive in-home services.

Are You Looking After a Veteran?

If you’re a caregiver to a Veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appreciates what you do. VA’s Caregiver Support Program offers training, educational resources, tools and other services to help you care for the Veteran you love – and for yourself. For more information and some tips and tools, visit VA Caregiver Support. Plus, you can call the Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274 to talk to a caring person who will:

  • Tell you about the assistance available from VA.
  • Help you access services and benefits.
  • Connect you with your local family Caregiver Support Coordinator (CSC), a licensed professional who will inform you about the services and support available to you as well as other community resources.
  • Just listen, if that’s what you need right now. Sometimes the best thing to do is just talk it out.

For more information on various health and wellness topics, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Healthy Caregiving.