Caring for the caregiver: Self-care suggestions

Caregivers are essential to the recovery process for any injury, and to helping those with chronic illness maintain a good quality of life. And November is National Family Caregiver month, so it’s time to celebrate you, or at least make sure you’re well cared for too.

You probably don’t need a statistic to realize how many people are caregivers (almost everyone knows someone filling this role), but here’s one anyway – in 2022, Statistics Canada reported that unpaid caregivers spent a median of eight hours per week providing care or support to adults with long-term conditions or disabilities, with women providing 10 hours of care compared with six hours for men. If you’re wondering how they do it, the study further reported that over half (56 percent) of all unpaid caregivers reported feeling tired because of their caregiving responsibilities, while 44 percent had felt worried or anxious during the past 12 months.

All this is to affirm that caregivers need support to – so here are some tips for you on how to make time for yourself in spite of your willingness to help.

Keep track of your own health

Getting regular check-ups, making time for exercise, keeping a balanced diet and getting enough sleep will all help to ensure that you’re strong both to fulfill your caregiver role and to enjoy your own life. Care for your mental health as well by taking breaks, setting boundaries and taking time off so you don’t burn out.

Accept help, both short term and long

Family members, friends and support groups are there to give you a break, handle those routine aspects of everyday life and share the load. Why not accept the neighbour’s offer of a weekly grocery run or your adult daughter’s offer to take her father to medical appointments? Remember too that professionals are available to provide respite care weekly or even to give you a few days’ break – the results can mean you return to your caregiver role with fresh energy.

Create routines to manage your stress

Whether it’s a mindfulness or meditation practice, a daily walk, or a daily half-hour to watch your favourite soap opera, make time for your own relaxation. If you have hobbies that are important to you, find ways to keep up with them. Keep up your social activities too by setting aside time to connect with friends and family – their emotional support will help keep you going.

Stay organized and revisit your caregiving plan

As a caregiver, you’re probably already pretty organized, which is great because routines reduces stress and help you stay on track. A few tips that many follow are to put all appointments in a dedicated calendar, type up a list of medications to have on hand at appointments, and keep notes about your loved one’s condition in the same place so that you can refer back to them.

Yet another tip is to revisit your caregiving plan – maybe you didn’t need help six months ago but a visit from a support worker would really lighten the load moving forward. While you’re at it, re-evaluate your self-care plan to add anything else you could be doing to balance out your own mental and emotional health.

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