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Self-Care for Family Caregivers

Self-Care for Family Caregivers

caregiver and man

While some people receive care from paid caregivers, most rely on unpaid assistance from their family, friends, or neighbors. Family caregivers work 24/7 to selflessly care for a senior or disabled loved one every day of the year. Caregiving for a family member involves many different responsibilities.

On average, family caregivers spend 312 hours each month on tasks like shopping, food prep, housekeeping, transportation, and giving medication; 144 hours per month on feeding, dressing, grooming, walking, bathing, and bathroom assistance; and 13 hours per month scheduling doctor visits, managing finances, and researching care services, according to the National Center on Caregiving.

Caregiving can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful. Caregiver burnout can happen when you become overwhelmed with conflicting demands between your caregiving duties, family duties, and work duties; lack of control over money and resources, and unrealistic expectations. These warning signs may indicate caregiver burnout:

  • Anger or frustration toward the person you care for
  • Anxiety
  • Denial about your loved one’s condition
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Health problems
  • Social withdrawal

To maintain your physical, mental, and emotional health, it’s important to practice self-care. This doesn’t necessarily mean a spa day or a vacation abroad—it can be as simple as setting aside time for yourself, allowing yourself to ask others for help, or practicing meditation. Consider these tips for staying healthy and avoiding caregiver burnout:

  • Don’t put off your health. You might be busy caring for a loved one, but you can’t ignore your health. Make sure you visit your doctor at least once a year for wellness visits, and never delay a visit if you feel unwell. Monitor your mental health and talk to your doctor if you notice symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  • Take breaks. It’s completely normal to take breaks from your caregiving duties. Even a half-hour break can allow you to eat a healthy snack, work out, take a stroll, or do something else that you enjoy. Also, be sure you make time to eat balanced meals.
  • Try new technology. It might be daunting at first, but some new technologies—like virtual visits—can be quite helpful in a caregiving setting.
  • Stay connected. Your life is busy, but don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Make time to check in with family and friends, whether it’s a simple text or a FaceTime call.
  • Ask for help. When your family and friends offer to help, accept it—at least once in a while. Allowing others to help will enable you to take some much-needed time to yourself. Give your helpers specific examples like, “Could you take Mom to her appointment tomorrow?” or “Can you stop by the pharmacy on your way home?”
  • Stay organized. Keep your loved one’s medical information organized, accessible, and easy to find.
  • Give yourself credit. When you’re a family caregiver, there are good days and bad days. At the end of the day, always give yourself credit for doing one of the most challenging jobs there is.

If you’re a family caregiver who needs to schedule your annual wellness visit or screening, don’t delay—get care at Frederick Health.