Caregivers by definition take care of others. Unfortunately, they often fail to take proper care of themselves because they’re focused on caring for others. Here are a few tips for proper self-care for family caregivers.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

No one blames stay-at-home parents for hiring a babysitter while they go out for the evening or taking advantage of a mother’s day out program. Yet many people taking care of loved ones think it must be them and only them all of the time, or else they’re failing their loved one. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is actually healthier for you and your loved one if you hire someone to stay with your loved one while you run errands. It is OK to hire someone to stay with your spouse or parent while you go to work, so you don’t have to rush home to check on them at lunch. Consider working with an agency like iCare Home Health Care Services to bring people in when you need it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Care of Yourself

Too many caregivers self-sacrifice to the point it hurts their health. For example, they’re busy taking the other person to doctor’s appointments but don’t go to the doctor or dentist themselves. This is often compounded by the fear of leaving their loved ones alone. Family caregivers should see self-care like this as an investment in the future. Don’t feel guilty about seeing the doctor about your back pain or worsening arthritis. If you can maintain your health, you extend the amount of time for which you can serve as a caregiver for your loved one while delaying the day when you, too, need assistance.

Self-care isn’t limited to seeking proper medical care for yourself. Get enough sleep. It will improve your mood, improving your ability to deal with difficult tasks and situations. Take the time to exercise and eat healthy.

Find Emotional Support

Many caregivers suffer from burnout because caregiving dominates their lives. Find emotional support. This doesn’t necessarily mean joining a support group. It could take the form of scheduling time to socialize with family and friends.

Establish Boundaries

Caregivers are often asked to do more because they’re already giving so much. Consider establishing boundaries. If you have had to start taking care of a loved one, be willing to hand off responsibility at charities you support. You can still show up and assist from time to time, but let someone else manage the fundraiser. Tell your employer that you’re not available when you leave work so that they don’t expect you to respond to calls and emails at all hours. Don’t let others guilt-trip you into running errands for them, just because you’re “at home” with a loved one. You’re already doing a lot. You don’t have to justify refusing to add to your load.

21st Century