Tips to Take Care of and Support the Family Caregiver

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Tips to Take Care of and Support the Family Caregiver

Take Care of Yourself

Let's face it; being a good caregiver can be challenging. It usually requires a huge commitment of time and resources, and it can take a toll emotionally, physically, and financially. One study by AARP found that caregivers spend 20 hours each week providing care.* The same study, conducted in 2009, estimated 65 million Americans served as unpaid family caregivers.

But when you're caring for others, it's critical that you first take care of yourself. By not doing so, you put yourself at risk of stress, guilt, exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy.

These caregiver support tips can help you take care of yourself.

  1. Recharge Every Day. Get regular exercise, even just a few minutes several times a day. Exercise promotes energy and well-being. Also, set aside at least a few minutes of quiet time each day, and be sure you're getting enough sleep.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Diet. When you are busy, it is easy to forget to eat healthy foods. When your schedule allows, try to eat meals with friends and family. This may help you will slow down and enjoy the company.
  3. See Your Doctor. By keeping up with your own medical appointments and screenings, you have a better chance of staying healthy. Also, watch for signs of depression, which is very common in family caregivers. Get extra support and professional help if needed.
  4. Take a Break. Recognize stress and take steps to manage it, and lean on friends and family for emotional support. Understand that your need for relaxation increases during periods of caregiving, so remain involved in hobbies and things that you enjoy.

Caregiver's Cycle of Guilt

Feelings of anger and frustration are common among family caregivers. These feelings can arise for any number of reasons, and often result in feelings of guilt. If left unmanaged caregiver guilt can be destructive and negatively impact your relationships, and result in feelings of inadequacy. This cycle of exhaustion, anger and guilt often repeats itself throughout the caregiving journey.

These Tips can Help You Deal with Feelings of Guilt:

  • Acknowledge your limitations. If you try to do too much, frustration is inevitable.
  • Prioritize your daily tasks. Caregiving tasks may be more important than household tasks. Refuse to feel guilty about unmade beds or dusty shelves.
  • Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Remind yourself that you are doing a very important job.
  • Reward yourself for your efforts.
  • Ask for help. Feeling guilty may be a sign that you need a break from your caregiving schedule. Others may be waiting for you to ask for their help.
  • Set limits. Establish clear boundaries and learn to say no.
  • Walk away from heated situations.
  • Express your feelings in a journal or diary.
  • Seek out a caregiving support group

You Don't have to Do it Alone - Find Support

Some family caregivers find it difficult to ask for help. But taking care of yourself and caring for a loved one can be easier with support. Don't be afraid to ask for help. If others in your family aren't stepping up, hold a family meeting to divide up duties. People typically want to help those they care about, but may not know how to. Consider posting a list of tasks for family members and friends to sign up for.

If you can answer 'yes' to one or more of the following questions, it may be time to get help:

  • Do I feel overworked and exhausted?
  • Do I feel dissatisfied with myself?
  • Do I feel isolated?
  • Do I feel depressed, resentful, angry, or worried?
  • Do I feel that I do not have time for myself?
  • Do I have no time to exercise and rest?
  • Do I have no time for fun with people outside my family?

This is also the time to think about community services that can help provide extra, support and caregiving assistance.

  • Adult day care
  • Friendly visitor programs
  • Meals on Wheels or other meal delivery services
  • Support groups
  • Respite care
  • Counseling

*National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP (2009). Caregiving in the US.

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