As a caregiver, also known as a carer or caretaker, it is easy to forget about yourself.
What are the responsibilities of a caregiver?
Caregiving definitions and responsibilities vary, but ultimately, include anyone who is providing care to someone close to them.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 53 million people living in the United States care for a family member, friend, or neighbor with a health care need or functional disability.
This can be an emotionally challenging job, and, since most family caregivers are unpaid, it is often a job that comes in addition to full time work elsewhere. Stress and burnout are common in caregiving, so it is important to prioritize your wellbeing.
Caregiver stress resources
Below are some great tips to help cope and recharge so you can continue to be an effective caregiver to your loved ones. Commit to at least two of the following recommendations in the weeks ahead, and book mark this page to check in when you need it.
1. Ask for help: Remind yourself that it is OK to delegate tasks or ask for help from friends, family or local resources. Prepare a list of caregiving activities you could use help with, and when someone offers to help, refer to the list. By having a list handy, it is easier to ask or allow others to help. You may want to consider hiring an in-home caregiver a few hours each week to allow you to take care of your own personal needs or consider enrolling your older adult in an adult day program. You can also look into local respite care programs.
2. Take time for yourself every day: It’s important to take breaks to help you recharge and reduce stress. Do a mini-walk for fresh air, read a book or magazine, or listen to audiobook to take your mind off things. Commit to doing at least one thing you enjoy every day. Consider using a time management tool or even just a reminder on your phone to help remind yourself to take short breaks and manage caregiving tasks.
3. Get enough sleep: Adequate sleep is important for your overall well-being. And, lack of sleep can negatively impact your health. As a caregiver who is juggling a myriad of responsibilities, it’s even tougher to get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Learn to delegate or ask for help so you can be rest up to avoid burnout and/or exhaustion.
4. Prioritize your own physical and mental health: Caregivers are often burdened with chronic stress which puts them at increased risk for many serious illnesses. It’s important to get the care you need by keeping your important medical appointments. Stay healthy so you can continue to be an effective caregiver.
5. Connect with friends and family: Don’t lose touch with those who care about you. Contact them by phone, video chats, and/or have a coffee or a meal together. It’s easy to get wrapped up in caregiving duties, so make a point to create fond memories with loved ones or simply just stay connected. It’s important to spend quality time with your close friends and family to help lift your spirits and energy.
6. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself credit and shake off any self-criticism or guilt. Use any verbal or visual reminders daily that you are doing the best you can for your loved one given the circumstances.
7. Plan for your loved one’s future care: Future medical care discussions are not easy, but it’s important to take the time to discuss and have a clear understanding of your loved one’s medical wishes. Work with your loved one to establish a health care proxy and provide copies to all healthcare providers — this will make things a little easier when the decisions need to be made.
Are you a caregiver? Find resources, support and more on the National Caregiver’s Alliance website.