Remember: your needs are important too! Caring for a loved one is an emotional task and caregivers commonly feel sadness, frustration, resentment, anxiety, anger and guilt. As a result of stress, many caregivers suffer from depression and their own physical ailments. It is important that you take time to take care of yourself, even if it is only a few moments here and there. Some tips:

  • Eat well and get enough sleep. Common sense? Maybe. But when you are busy and stressed, it is easy to neglect the basics.
  • Breathe. Deep breathing exercises and meditation can permanently change your physical responses to stress. Practicing 20 minutes a day can make the difference.
  • Exercise. Taking time to exercise can also alleviate stress and help keep you healthy.
  • Set boundaries. Learn to say no. Realizing your own limitations can make you more productive in the long run.
  • Ask for help. Many caregivers think they have to shoulder the burden alone. Enlist the assistance of family members and friends.
  • Plan for respite care. You may need a few days break (respite). If friends or family cannot fill in, respite care services may be available in the community. Under certain circumstances, Medicare will pay for a limited amount of respite care.
  • Make time for fun. Do not turn down invitations from friends. If you take time to talk and laugh, it can help keep life in perspective.
  • Be aware of the signs of caregiver burnout. It is time to take a break if you are feeling constantly irritated; ceasing to laugh; snapping at your loved one over little things; having crying fits or rages; or developing stress-related ailments, such as headaches, upset stomach or insomnia.
  • Join support groups. You are not alone in your experiences. Finding out how other people have coped may be helpful.
  • Do not neglect your health. Remember to see your doctor for routine check-ups and recommended screenings. And stay on top of managing any chronic health conditions you may have, such as diabetes.