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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Stress Relief

Taking Care of Yourself When You Become the Caregiver

Finding Health and Balance When Caring for Others

-- By Ellen G. Goldman, Health and Wellness Coach
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The Family Caregiver Alliance, an organization founded in 1977, was the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care at home. Their research, task forces and position papers clearly show that most caregivers neglect their own health by not taking the time to engage in preventative health behaviors, such as exercising, eating well, getting adequate sleep or attending to personal doctor’s visits. Lack of support, and not knowing where to turn for it, compounds the problems.
 
At some point in your life, there may come a time when a person you love becomes ill or unable to function on his or her own. Your role shifts in a way for which you may not have been prepared. Your formerly independent parents suddenly feel like your children. Sick or disabled loved ones are in need of constant care and attention. As we become enmeshed in the caregiving, we may find our own life and needs slipping away. I learned a lot about what works to alleviate the stress and keep it all together while providing care for my parents. I hope these tips accumulated from the FCA and my own experience will help you to care for yourself if you find yourself in the caregiver role.
 
9 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers
1. Put your own self-care at the top of your priority list. You will be absolutely no help to anyone if you fall apart. Stick to your exercise routine, don't skip meals, fuel yourself with healthy foods and get the sleep you need. My daily run alleviated my stress, gave me a welcome break from attending to my parents' needs, and kept me feeling in control and energized. It may feel difficult to balance it all, but do not let yourself feel guilty for taking time for yourself. Likewise, avoid that guilt of not being able to "do it all" like you once did. Do what you can in these areas of wellness. It's about progress—not perfection.

2. Ask for and accept the help you need. There is no shame in asking others to help out wherever needed. Most people not only want to help, but feel really good about doing so. Whenever I needed help getting a lift to or from the airport, picking up things from the market, or cooking dinner, the assistance of my husband, children and friends was invaluable and very much appreciated.
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About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen Goldman has bachelor's and master's degrees in health and physical education. An AFAA-certified personal trainer and certified wellness coach, she is also the founder EnerG Coaching, LLC. Through one-on-one and group sessions, Ellen helps individuals make positive lifestyle changes, lose weight, manage stress and attain work-life balance. Visit her at www.EnerGcoaching.com.

Member Comments

  • I am not a caregiver but I do know that you have to take time for yourself. If not you will wear your on body down. Good article. - 11/10/2013 7:43:06 PM
  • This article has some excellent points, I recently became my mother's caregiver. The hardest thing really is keeping up on an exercise program; I can't leave her to take a run or even go into the basement to work out (she is on hospice care). I've been doing yoga a couple times a day, but I think I'm going to have to start strongly requesting regular help from my cousins and her siblings. I do appreciate the reminder that I need to take care of me too. - 9/13/2013 1:20:26 PM
  • I am taking care of my husband & I have no time for myself.
    Great article. - 6/28/2013 11:16:35 PM
  • Thank you for this excellent article and reminder for us caregivers (or, in my case, former caregivers)...and
    , anyone who is a caregiver would be welcome to join us on the caregiver support team!!! - 6/26/2013 12:20:46 AM
  • I took care of my parents for about 8 years between the two of them. It was hard and sometimes I resented the time I lost attending to my own life for taking care of them. I lost my job during that time. My children finished growing up with a part, part-time mom (I worked full time too.) My marriage suffered.

    But, we made it and I now have no regrets for the time I spent with them--it was the last years I would ever be with them again. Although it was difficult, we made it through intact and I have a wonderful family with responsible adult children, and my marriage survived despite the difficulties.

    I utilized home health, family, church family, friends and neighbors to help in their care. It still took it's toll, but with a proper balance of help, support, and realistic choices -- it can be done.

    Good article! - 6/25/2013 11:00:39 PM
  • This article strikes such a chord! Thanks for the reminder to look after myself first. - 6/25/2013 2:45:55 PM
  • GENERIC-FIT
    I need this article now more than ever. My mom has been diagnosed with dementia, specifically Alzheimer's. She's in the early stages and we're trying to get the long term outlook taken care of. I'm thankful for my family and support, but since I live with my mom and it's just the two of us, it isn't easy. - 6/25/2013 5:35:51 AM
  • I saved my dad twice from respiratory failure I'm his medical proxy, my brothers made things more difficult and my dad is very stubborn. The stress put on me was tremendous after him screaming at me in front of a visiting nurse and making a fool out of me for the last time after me trying to get in help for him ( I have fibro and it was taking it's toll on my own health) I had to just walk away. I love my dad but he's very difficult and was literally making me sick.
    I realized that I can't feel guilty I went above and beyond what any of my siblings would of ever done with no appreciation.
    The nurses and doctors told me that I shouldn't put up with his demanding ways in my condition when he didn't even appreciate it and that I should walk away before I ended up in the ground before him.
    It's a very dysfunctional family, now that he's all better for now he doesn't even know me that's the thanks I got for all my sacrifices.... - 6/5/2013 12:27:48 AM