Caregivers face complex challenges. Balancing numerous responsibilities can get overwhelming. However, regular self-care for caregivers is vital for your mind, body, and soul. It is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and as a caregiver. In this post we discuss the importance of self-care, what it is, and we provide caregiver self-care tips and ideas so you can implement them in your daily routine.
What is Self Care
Self-care is taking care of yourself. It is promoting your health and managing any health conditions you have.
Self Care Definition
World Health Organization (WHO) defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”.
- Disease control and prevention
- Health Promotion
- Caring for dependent people
- Seeking care from a provider or specialist, getting rehabilitative or palliative care
- Nutrition, including the type and quality of food eaten
- Lifestyle, for example, sporting activities, leisure activities
- Environmental factors for example living conditions, social habits
- Socioeconomic factors for example income level, cultural belief
Importance of Self Care for Caregivers
All caregivers, whether younger or older, have reported increasing health risks. Baby boomers, for example, have an increased risk for depression, chronic illness, and a possible decline in quality of life. And despite identified risks, family caregivers are less likely than non-caregivers to seek preventive care and practice self-care.
Caregivers report problems maintaining their health and well-being while providing caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers have reported:
- Poor eating habits
- Sleep deprivation
- Not exercising
- Failure to stay in bed when ill
- Postponing, or not making medical appointments for their own care
Family caregivers may also at an increased risk for:
- getting depression
- excessively using drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.
- having a chronic illness, or example high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- being overweight
10 Caregiver Self-Care Ideas and Activities
You, as a caregiver, can take care of yourself while taking care of your patient. Below are some great caregiver self care tips and ideas.
1. Implement Caregiver Self Care in Your Daily Routine
Make doing something for yourself part of your daily routine.
Everyone should make their own self-care list of ideas that are emotionally fulfilling to you.
Make a long list of caregiver self care tips and pick at least one thing to do each day. You deserve some ‘me’ time, so relax and enjoy!
Daily Caregiver Self Care Ideas
- Sit outside, whether on your porch, deck, or at a local park. Sit, relax, and breathe.
- Take a walk, a pleasant slow stroll someplace pretty
- Do some gardening, or plant something in your yard
- Sit, relax, and watch the sky, either the clouds during the day or the stars at night
- Go birdwatching in your backyard or a local park
- Get out and go for a scenic drive, no errands, just a relaxing drive
- Read a magazine or a good book for at least an hour
- Take a warm bubble bath with calming music
- Take a nap
- Snuggle with your pet on the couch
Enjoy and Splurge
- Get a relaxing pedicure or manicure, or give yourself one
- Get a massage
- Put on a facemask
- Go to a coffee shop, sit, and enjoy a fancy drink
- Order out or cook a special meal, something you genuinely enjoy
- Make your area smell nice, either by burning a candle or diffusing some lovely smelling oils
Laugh and Have Fun
- Call a friend you have not spoken to in awhile
- Sit on the floor and play with your cat or dog
- Listen to your favorite podcast
- Binge-watch something you like, ask for ideas if you need some
- Wear a fun outfit, do your hair, and put on makeup, just because
- Play your favorite music
- Watch cute animal videos on YouTube
- Watch funny videos on YouTube
- Pat yourself on the back and remember all you do. Celebrate your accomplishments, big and small.
Be Active and Move
- Pretend you are new in town or a tourist, and do or see something you normally would not
- Work on something you enjoy doing, like knitting, drawing, or playing an instrument
- Stretch or do yoga. Try a tutorial on YouTube
- Go for a power walk
- Change your sheets and make your bed
- Pick one drawer, closet, or area in the house that has been bothering you and declutter it
- Organize your documents
- Clear out your phone or computer
2. Medical Appointments – Caregiver Self Care
See you health care provider regularly.
Today, more than ever, preventative health care is becoming commonplace as people become more empowered and educated about their own health and lower the risk of various medical conditions.
Providers now highlight the importance of prevention and encourage regular check-ups, so people stay on top of their health.
The benefits of preventive care and regular check-ups include:
- Reduce the risk of getting sick
- Early detection of diseases and medical conditions
- Minimize complications by closely monitoring for side effects or existing conditions
- Improve health and increase your lifespan
- Keep updated on new medical therapies, technology, or information as they become available.
3. Socialization – Caregiver Self Care Tips
Socializing is good for both our minds and body. It reduces feelings of loneliness and helps sharpen cognitive and memory skills increase happiness and sense of well-being, and socializing may even help you live longer.
Direct contact with others triggers parts of our nervous system that release neurotransmitters that are tasked with regulating our response to stress
Research has also linked social connection with physical health benefits; for example, one study noted socially active people have a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
So, make time to meet your friends and spend quality time with your family members. Do not forget to do the things you enjoy, spending time with the ones you love.
Stay Socially Active is an Important Part of Self Care for Caregivers
Staying active in a good social circle has many positive effects on your mental and physical health, including;
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Enhanced self-esteem
- Better physical health
4. Reduce Stress – Self Care for Caregivers
Stress refers to our body’s reaction to demands and challenges, and there are healthy ways to deal with stress.
Caregivers have additional stressors unique to their situation.
Your stress level is influenced by many factors and may include:
- Whether your caregiving is involuntary or voluntary. If you feel like you do not choose to be a family caregiver, or do not have much help, you may experience more resentment and distress.
- If you do not have a good relationship with your loved one or hope to heal the relationship, you may feel discouragement or regret if things are not improving.
- Your coping mechanisms and abilities. Build on your current coping strengths.
- A stressful caregiving situation. Some conditions (e.g., dementia) and situations (complex family dynamics) may cause increased stress.
- Whether or not respite and financial support are available.
Manage Your Stress – Caregiver Self Care Tips:
- Be self-aware of the stressors in your life and recognize early warning signs. For example, if you start having difficulty sleeping, mood changes, irritability, or forgetfulness. Identify the stressor and take steps to minimize impacts.
- Remember what you have control over and what you do not. If there is something you can change that will positively impact, it may make a big difference.
- Implement stress-reducing activities, which may include:
- A warm shower or bath
- Visiting with a friend
- Playing with a pet
5. Time Management
Effective time management helps you control your day to stick to your schedule without compromising your work-life balance. It can help decrease caregiver stress and help prevent caregiver burnout and fatigue.
Some time management strategies include:
- planning ahead
- prioritizing your to do list
- declutter and organize your space
- realize your limitations
- don’t procrastinate
There are tools and apps available to help organize the day and monitor important information easier.
For additional information about time management, read our post: 10 Time Management Tips for Caregivers.
6. Ask for Help – Self Care for Caregivers
Prepare a list of tasks that others can help with. Some examples include:
- Taking your loved one to appointments
- Grocery shopping
- Taking your loved one out for social activity, or a weekly walk
- Picking up medications at the pharmacy
- Preparing meals, for example, doing some advanced meal prep on Sunday for weekday meals
- Maintaining the lawn, landscaping
- Help can come from family, community resources, friends, and professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
7. Respite Care – Take Breaks for Caregiver Self Care
Taking a much-needed break is a great way to practice self care for caregivers.
Respite care is when you get a temporary, short break from caregiving.
This enables you to get some relief from caregiving’s complex demands for a sick, aging, or disabled family member.
Respite care can occur either in the home, at adult day-care centers, or at residential facilities that offer respite programs.
Whether you need a short break for a few hours or want to take an extended vacation, having respite care can help unload some of the burdens of family caregiving.
It may also help reduce stress, restore your energy, and maintain a much-needed balance in your life.
Where to Find Help – Resources for Seniors
Caring for a loved one can get complicated and demanding. There may be resources available in your local community that could help you or your senior loved one.
There may be meal delivery programs, visiting nurses, or respite care programs available in your area. These programs can not only help your loved one but may also alleviate some of your stress.
For an in-depth list of community resources, read our post What Are Community Resources and How to Find Them.
Some of the resources we discuss in that blog post include:
Area Agency on Aging (AAA)
Check out your local Area Agency on Aging. Each state has an AAA that helps coordinate services so seniors can age at home.
They usually help with providing information about services such as legal aid, health insurance consultation, adult daycare information, respite care, meals on wheels, and caregiver support services. Just insert your zip code, and find you find your local Area Agency on Aging
Adult Day Care
Adult Day Care (ADC) generally provides daily services for aging adults and the disabled. They usually during the day, and usually offer activities for adults who need help.
National Respite Locator
ARCH has a National Respite Locator tool, a database that helps caregivers, parents, and providers find local respite services.
8. Exercise – Self Care for Caregivers
We have all heard regular exercise is good for you.
As a caregiver, you are busy juggling multiple responsibilities and maybe haven’t improved your exercise habits.
The good news — it is never too late to start.
Exercise is can be an excellent part of caregiver self care.
To maximize the benefits of exercise, you should try to get the recommended amount of exercise for your age.
What are the benefits? You will feel better, have better control over many medical conditions, and likely live longer.
What are the health benefits of exercise?
- Weight management because exercise plays a critical role in controlling your weight and preventing obesity.
- Reduce your risk of heart diseases, including high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack.
- It helps lower your blood sugar level, reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
- Improve your mood and mental well-being. During physical activity, your body may release chemicals that may improve mood and make you more relaxed, which helps deal with stress and reduces the risk of depression.
- Strengthen your muscles and bones.
- Reduce your risk of some cancers, for example, breast, colon, lung, and uterine cancer.
- Reduce your risk of falls. For older adults, studies show that balance and muscle-strengthening activities, in addition to aerobic exercise (moderate-intensity), may reduce your risk of falling.
- Improve your night’s sleep by helping you fall asleep faster and staying asleep longer.
- Improve your sexual health because studies show regular exercise may reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) in men.
- Increase your chances of living longer. Studies show that physical activity may reduce your risk of dying early from some of the leading causes of death, like heart disease and cancers.
9. Healthy Eating – Caregiver Self Care Tips
As a caregiver, eating healthy is essential. There are several small positive steps you can take to eating better. Some quick healthy eating caregiver self care tips include:
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Many studies have shown there are many health benefits to eating breakfast.
- Choose whole grains instead of refined breads. Whole grains has been shown to have many health benefits.
- Eat eggs, they are rich in protein and many essential nutrients.
- Try to make one new healthy recipe a week
- Eat your vegetables first, this way you know you are eating your greens
- Replace sugary drinks with sparkling water
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking juices
10. Drink Plenty of Water – Caregiver Self Care
If you don’t drink enough water daily, you risk becoming dehydrated. Dehydration can negatively impact your energy levels and brain function, among other things.
Dehydration’s warning signs include low blood pressure, weakness, confusion, dizziness, or dark-colored urine.
Experts commonly recommend drinking eight 8 oz glasses of water a day. However, water needs vary from person to person. It’s a good idea to ask your provider if you do not know how much water you should be drinking daily.
Some general tips include:
- Drink fluids gradually and throughout the day, so that you have clear, pale urine.
- If you are thirsty, drink.
- If it is hot or you are exercising, make sure you are drinking enough to compensate for the lost fluids.
Positive Affirmations are also a terrific self help activity you can practice. For more information, please read our post:
Please consider joining our Facebook Group for Caregiver Support, where caregivers support each other!
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Being a family caregiver can be challenging. Caregivers may be at increased risk for things such as depression, chronic illness, and a possible decline in quality of life. Caregiver self-care and stress management are important parts of being a caregiver. Caregiver self care enables you to be physically and emotionally healthy to best care for your loved one. There are numerous community resources available to help your loved one age at home, so contacting them to see what type of help is available will benefit you and your loved one.
Remember, self-care is not selfish. Instead, it keeps you healthy and enables you to provide attentive, responsible care to your loved one.
Do you have any creative ways to keep up on caring for yourself? Let us know!
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