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Feed Your Needs: Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

It takes love and dedication to be a caregiver. It’s one of the most demanding tasks you’ll ever face and it takes a lot out of you physically and mentally. Unanticipated problems frequently arise, and your care subject may require long hours of attention. As your loved one comes to depend on you completely, it can be easy to neglect your own needs and even to overlook the fact that you’re feeling stressed and need time to rest and heal.

It’s important to take time for self-care so that you can continue to be an effective caregiver. Otherwise, you could wind up needing care yourself. According to AARP, caregivers get sick at a higher-than-normal rate due to a gradual breakdown of stamina. You need time to nurture yourself and recover your physical, mental and emotional strength. If you will stick to a regular self-care routine, you can decrease the likelihood that you’ll get sick and be unable to provide the level of care your loved one needs.

Maintain a healthy diet

Be sure to eat a well-rounded diet that includes fruit and vegetables, whole grains, protein and dairy. Eating healthy foods gives you energy and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Don’t fall into the trap of eating food that’s quick and easy to obtain (i.e. fast food and junk food). Drink six to eight glasses of water a day and incorporate a multivitamin in your dietary routine to help maintain vigour and the energy you need each day.

Get moving

Find ways to work some exercise into your daily routine, at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity, whether it be aerobic exercises, taking a walk around the neighbourhood, or doing some stretching work. Look for small ways to get physical activity, such as taking stairs instead of an elevator or working a little dancing into your daily cleaning. The idea is to get moving, get the blood flowing, and keep your muscles lean and limber. Remember, you don’t need expensive workout equipment in order to get the exercise you need.

Don’t rob yourself of sleep

If you’re a caregiver, the last thing you need is to be sick around your loved one. One way to ensure you’ll get sick is to rob yourself of the sleep you need, at least seven to eight hours every night. If that’s hard to do, use opportunities throughout the day, such as when your care subject is sleeping, to catch a nap here and there. Sleep strengthens your immune system, improves your memory and alleviates physical ailments such as inflammation. Avoid putting off sleep until later, because you need sufficient, uninterrupted sleep every night, not just whenever you can fit it in.

‘You’ time

Self-care isn’t just about sleep, diet and exercise. There’s an important psychological component to self-care that’s also important. Everyone needs time for themselves to do something they enjoy, to recharge their mental batteries and process emotions. Take at least 15 minutes every day to read, meditate, pray, do yoga, or a crossword puzzle, something that’ll occupy your mind and leave you feeling refreshed.

Reach out

Caregivers tend to be highly conscientious and responsible individuals, who often don’t ask for help out of a sense of duty and commitment. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a family member, or someone who understands the situation and knows the importance of what you do every day. Sometimes, it helps just to have someone to share frustrations with. Reaching out is especially important if you or your loved one struggles with substance abuse problems. Above all, don’t self-medicate with addictive substances if you’re feeling stressed.

The work you do is important to the loved one who relies on you, to other family members, and to you. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you have to stay healthy and in a good mindset to provide the care your care subject needs. Think of self-care as something you need to do for both of you.


Harry Cline is creator of and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

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