Self-Care for the Caregiver

Patient & Family Teaching Sheet

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Why is self-care important?

Caregivers are very important in the care of persons with serious or life-threatening illnesses. More than 70% of people who die have had care from family caregivers. Caring for a loved one who is seriously ill can be hard work and stressful. Your ability to do this work improves when you take time to take care of yourself. Self-care is about meeting your own needs so that you can be an effective caregiver. It is important to be well-rested to provide the best care. Some helpful suggestions include the following.

Physical needs

  • Remember to take care of your own health.
  • Keep your own medical, dental, and therapy appointments.
  • Schedule time to eat; have at least three healthy but simple meals daily.
  • Learn to make meals in advanc Ask friends/family if they will help make meals.
  • Ask how best to provide care to your loved one and prevent injuring yourself.
  • Take time to rest, especially if sleeping has become
  • Avoid/limit the use of tobacco and alcohol as they make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Try to get exercise during the day.
  • Take time for yourself. This can include reading, listening to music, taking a bath, walking, praying, gardening, and other activities you enjoy.

Communication Needs

  • Tell people about your worries and concerns. These people may be family, friends, or some of the healthcare providers working with you to help care for your loved
  • Stay informed! Ask what signs and symptoms the person you are caring for may have so that you are prepared to deal with them.
  • Get organized and set realistic goals for your day. Be flex Set limits.
  • Ask others to help with whatever you or your loved one needs.
  • Stay informed about the hospice visits and any changes in the schedule.

Emotional/spiritual needs

  • Continue relationships with family and friends to avoid feeling alone. If it is difficult for you to get out, ask people to come to visit. Let people take care of you, and allow your loved one to say thank you for all you do.
  • Work with your team to provide time to get out of the home to enjoy social activities or attend support groups. When possible, keep doing your favorite activities. Try to keep things simple.
  • Talk about what is happening to your loved one. Expect to feel angry, stressed, or frustrated at times. These are normal responses.
  • Tell yourself every day that you are doing a great job. Breathe and laugh
  • Let your hospice/palliative care team know if you feel overwhelmed. Your team has resources to help.
  • Attend to your spiritual needs by calling or visiting your clergy, church, or synagogue.
  • Have your own “special space.” This can be your room, a chair, a table, etc. Someplace that is yours where you can unwind.
  • Take short breaks outside the house, even for a few minutes.
  • Seek additional professional help if you feel scared, helpless, lost, or depressed.