5 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

Learn how to care for yourself so you can better care for your loved ones
Older adult women with glasses and curly gray hair being embraced by a younger woman adult with curly brown hair.

"Being a caregiver can be fulfilling and bring you a lot of pleasure,” says Ellen Carbonell, MSW, LCSW “but it also can be extremely challenging.” Here are five tips that can help you get the support you need to stay physically and emotionally healthy.  

  1. Rethink the idea of self-care

Your well-being is just as important as the people you care for. Caregivers tend to put themselves last, but if you don’t care for yourself, you risk exhaustion and negative health effects. Prioritizing yourself through regular health screenings, rest, exercise and joyful activities keeps you and those you care for healthy. 

  1. Set manageable self-care goals

A small step can have a huge impact, particularly if you’re not used to putting yourself first. You don’t need to make huge changes right out of the gate. Think of it as carving out a little breathing room for yourself. Something as small as walking around the block, inviting a friend over for a cup of coffee or reading a chapter of a good book can make a difference. The key is to make sure that you’re focusing on what you need during that time. 

  1. Expand your support system

Your informal network may be larger than you think. Many people get support from their faith communities or volunteer organizations. Consider RUSH Caring for Caregivers, a program that has been proven to have positive health-related outcomes for adults age 60 and older and for their care partners. Caring for Caregivers does not charge for the initial meeting and other sessions are covered by most insurances. 

  1.  Allow yourself to say ‘no’

You are not superhuman. To protect your health and well-being, you must prioritize your needs. Set realistic expectations and sometimes say no. This might mean asking for help when you need it or saying no to additional responsibilities if your plate is already full.  

  1. Plan ahead for offers to help

“What can I do to help?” Friends and family often ask this question, and you may struggle with answering in the moment. To address this, make a list of anything you can think of that would be helpful to you or even a “nice to have” that would relieve some pressure from your life. Once you have the list, you can refer to it whenever anyone asks if they can help. Include big and small asks on the list, so you can tailor the task to the person offering to help. And when the offer to help is made, say, “Yes!” 

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