Self-Care for Family Caregivers

By Jennifer McDougall

When caring for someone else, you need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself. So it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of your loved one that you forget about yourself. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, then how can you be expected to take care of anyone else? If this sounds familiar, read on and learn some tips on caring for yourself while also caring for others.

Caregivers often don’t take the time to care for themselves.

When you’re a caregiver, it can be easy to put the needs of others first and neglect your own. However, as caregiver support services often say: “You can’t give what you don’t have.” By caring for yourself, you will be better able to care for others.

You may not get around to taking time off work or going on vacation if you are caring for your aging parents or a special needs child at home. Caregivers tend not only to work more hours but also do so with less discretionary time than non-caregivers because they’re trying to squeeze in caregiving activities around their regular jobs.

Additionally, some research has found that caregivers who feel stressed about their responsibilities report having difficulty sleeping and getting enough exercise (UAB & AARP). Therefore, it’s essential for family caregivers to take some time each day just for themselves—even if it’s just 20 minutes during lunch break or 30 minutes before bedtime—so they can recharge their batteries and set aside worries about work, family members’ health issues or other concerns that may be weighing them down.

It’s a mistake to think that you can do it all by yourself and do it well.

You need help from other people, whether they’re professionals or not. You need someone to talk to when you’re feeling overwhelmed or panicked. That person doesn’t have to be a professional care provider. Sometimes just having another person in the room who can listen and respond will relieve you.

You also need more hands-on assistance than most people get at home: transportation arrangements; meals prepared; the house kept clean (or at least tidy enough); laundry is done; medications administered—and on and on!

Caregivers often don’t recognize how overwhelmed they are until something happens.

You may have become so accustomed to your new responsibilities that you no longer realize how much time and energy it takes to care for a loved one. But unfortunately, it’s also easy to forget that caring for someone is an intensely emotional experience.

While it may seem like you’re going through the motions, this can be a good thing because it means you are becoming more adept at handling daily tasks. However, if caring becomes overwhelming, there are steps you can take to make things easier on yourself:

  • Recognize your limitations. It’s essential not only to identify the stressors in your life but also to recognize when they cross over into a pile-on situation where there’s just no way out except by taking some significant action—and fast.
  • Be aware of your own feelings and needs and those of others in the household or family unit so that everyone gets their share of attention (including YOU). Of course, this doesn’t mean everyone must be treated all the time equally; sometimes we need more attention than others do, depending on our circumstances or health status at any given time—but these things should always be seen eye-to-eye between caregiver(s) and patient(s).

Ask for help before you hit rock bottom.

You’re not the first person in your family who has been a caregiver. And if you’ve been doing it for a while, it may seem like everyone around you knows what they’re doing better than you. But that doesn’t mean that they know what’s best for YOU—or how YOU are feeling right now. You might be able to get through another day or two by staying strong and pushing through the exhaustion. Still, eventually, something will have to give: either your physical health or your mental health (or both). If this isn’t getting any easier for you as time goes on, consider making an appointment with a therapist or counselor so that someone can help guide and support you in finding ways to manage everything taking its toll on your life right now.

The people close to you understand what you’re going through.

They probably know how tired, sad, frustrated, and scared you may feel. But they also know how strong, determined, and courageous you are. You are not alone in this journey—hopefully, they’re right there with you.

We can’t stress enough how important it is for caregivers to take care of themselves first so they can do their best in caring for others.

The more self-aware you are, the more effectively you can care for others.

It’s important to recognize when you are overwhelmed and need help or when you are doing too much and need a break. You also need to remember when it’s time to ask for help from others so they can take on some of your responsibilities.

Remember: Self-care isn’t selfish! When we take care of ourselves first, we have more energy to do good things for other people—and ultimately feel better about ourselves.

You have to take care of yourself to take care of others.

When caring for a loved one, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day demands of life. You might not have time to go to the doctor, buy groceries or make sure your loved one is getting enough sleep. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll be unable to provide care when they need it most—and they’ll suffer.

You have a lot of knowledge and experience to help others when they’re struggling.

You’ve been there, you know what it’s like, and you’ve probably learned some lessons along the way. Sharing your experience with others is one way to give back, but there are other ways as well:

  • Be a role model. Your loved ones may look up to you and want to be like you; try being a good example by practicing what you preach (or preaching what you practice). For example, if part of your self-care routine involves exercising every day, make sure that your family knows why this is important—the benefits can’t be explained in just a few words or sentences. Instead, show them how it makes you feel better so they’ll see “results” themselves.
  • Be a good listener. Family caregivers often need someone who listens without judging them or suggesting solutions; sometimes, people just want someone nearby who cares about how things are going in their lives. As long as we’re able and if we’re willing, we should provide this service whenever possible (and ask for help from others when needed).

You don’t have to be perfect or know everything about your child’s condition or disorder to be a good parent or caregiver.

Being a parent or caregiver is hard work. It’s okay if you don’t know all the answers, questions, and solutions immediately. You’ve just been given additional responsibility, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone—help is available.

Recognizing your limits may be difficult, but it’s essential to maintain your health and well-being so that you can continue caring for yourself and others.

It’s essential to pay attention to your mental health and get the right kind of treatment if you need it.

  • Get a therapist. You may be worried about taking time off work, but therapy is usually covered by insurance. If it’s not, it’s worth paying out of pocket; the money you spend on therapy will likely save you thousands down the line in medical bills and lost productivity. Plus, if you’re already feeling anxious or depressed, who better to help?
  • Get a support group. Support groups are great because they give people with similar experiences a chance to share their stories and learn from one another. They also provide an opportunity for people who don’t have mental illness symptoms themselves—but do have loved ones suffering from them—to connect with others going through similar struggles to get the emotional support they need.
  • Talk to someone else about how things are going at home: family members and friends are often eager (and able) to lend an ear when needed most! You could also consider reaching out via text message or video chat for added convenience; these modes of communication allow for more immediate responses than phone calls might allow while also allowing greater privacy than the face-to-face conversation would offer (for example, by eliminating any traces of emotion that could be misinterpreted). Finally, many caregivers find comfort in knowing someone else is checking in on them regularly throughout this challenging season; regular check-ins can help keep caregivers motivated even when motivation feels scarce!

If you care for someone else, you must also care for yourself.

It is important to remember that you are not a superhero. You can’t save the world by caring for everyone else, and you can’t do everything yourself. Try too hard to juggle all of your responsibilities. It will be impossible for you to meet the needs of everyone around you.

Instead, focus on taking care of yourself first and foremost! Suppose there is anything that we have learned from our years in education and experience working with families over time. In that case, happier caregivers are better caregivers than those who are stressed out or angry always (and this goes for both parents and children).


Taking care of yourself is an essential part of caring for others. It’s easy to get caught up in providing care and forget about yourself, but this can lead to burnout or even worse consequences. You deserve some time off now and then to be there for those who need your help most.

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