Self Care for the Caregiver

In our blog posts, we often focus a lot on patients, but there are a ton of people behind the scenes, whether it be in a household or in a medical environment who are caring for these patients and helping them live with/manage and recover from conditions, as well as helping to make them comfortable when treatment is no longer the best course of action. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.

With these people specifically in mind, we are recognizing National Family Caregivers Month this November by providing some tips on how to care for yourself while you are providing care for someone else, whether it is a family member, friend or patient.

Make sure you are taking care of yourself. Even though you might worry that it seems selfish to put your needs first, you really cannot be of any help to someone who is ill and in need of care if you, yourself, are sick. This means making sure you are eating right, staying hydrated while on the job and ensuring you are getting enough sleep each night.

The job is tough so make sure you are taking respite breaks when and where you can. Look into something you can do on those breaks to help you decompress and destress, whether it’s practicing mindfulness/meditation, taking a yoga class or reading a book outside for a bit. It’ll do a world of good for your mental health, which in turn will make you a better caregiver.

Stay as organized as possible because it will make your life easier in the long run. Make sure you know where all of your patient or loved one’s medical documentation is so that you are not frantically looking for it when you need it and so you are best able to communicate with medical professionals at a high level. Keep track of things like medications, procedures, symptoms, meals, sleep schedules, etc. in a journal or something similar so that you have firm records should their doctor need any of that information.

And finally, if you need help, make sure you ask for it. Whether you are struggling to physically manage a situation, or you are having a hard time emotionally coping, there are so many people out there who can help and who should be used as resources. You don’t have to do it alone!