Caregivers: Remember to Care for Yourself

We’ve all been there:  wake up, get our loved ones out the door; get to work, immediately start on our caregiving duties. All of a sudden, 2 p.m. rolls around and we’re feeling a bit funky. Why? Because we never stopped to eat. Sound familiar?

All too often, it is. As caregivers, we need to remember that great care partners also care for themselves. Being a caregiver means wearing many hats—you may be a spouse, a child or a parent; a nurse, an advocate, a coordinator, a communicator, a liaison, or a friend–and sometimes several of those all at once.

Caregivers continually give of themselves – offering their time, energy, knowledge and support…many times while forsaking their own needs. In order to best care for others, caregivers must make time for recharging their batteries. Following are some strategies to help prioritize self-care:

  • Be proactive—designate a specific amount of time, each day, for yourself. Note it on your calendar and stick to it.
  • Do all the things you tell others:  eat right, exercise, find an outlet—whether spiritual activities, hobbies, or time with friends. This sets the foundation for preventing burnout.
  • Know your limits and advocate for yourself—it’s easy to want to take on more and more, but be realistic about how much you can do while maintaining your own health and wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to say “no.”
  • Be prepared – planning ahead can help you prioritize and better manage your time. Take stock of what’s on your plate each day—before you arrive at work—and formulate your game plan for achieving it. A solid action plan can help prevent ambiguity and make things less stressful.
  • Seek support—you are so often the support for others. Reaching out for help and connecting with others who “get it,” such as licensed social workers, can help reframe challenges into opportunities and provide a fresh perspective.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) offers a variety of services to help caregivers get the support they need. AFA’s national toll-free helpline is staffed by licensed social workers who can provide referrals to local services, caregiving tips and strategies, or just an empathetic ear. In addition, AFA offers telephone-based support groups, allowing caregivers to reach out, as they have time, and not have the added stress of having to physically be in one more place. The organization also offers a variety of free educational tools, including in-person conferences and monthly teleconferences and materials; as well as professional training. For more information, or to speak with a licensed social worker, call AFA’s national toll-free helpline at 866-232-8484.