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Caring for Yourself During Caregiving

How to nurture your own needs and relationships

It’s easy to get so caught up in your role as caregiver that you don’t take time for yourself. Talking to your parent’s doctors and troubleshooting their problems can be time consuming and emotionally draining.

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It’s important to nurture your own needs and relationships. Give yourself permission to take a break and connect with others outside your caregiving circle. Find someone willing to provide respite care and do something you enjoy. You’ll likely return refreshed and a better caregiver to your loved one.

Here are six ways to maintain your relationships while caregiving:

1. Figure out your priorities
Make a list of what you like to do. Find ways to re-energize yourself mentally and physically. Is it more important to go to have coffee with friends or go on a walk? You can do both, but you have to plan ahead.

Consider passing on volunteer work or extra activities while you are a caregiver. It’s OK this year not to bake cupcakes for the soccer team’s party or help out at the PTA fundraiser. There’ll be a time when you can serve your community later. Take care of yourself now.

2. Take time out from caregiving
Plan a regular day off and block out time for yourself on your calendar. Ask your siblings or a friend to fill in for you. See a movie, take a yoga class or have lunch with a friend.

3. Ask for help
Reach out to your friends and tell them about the demands in your life as a caregiver. Look to your faith community for support or connect with community centers that offer help for caregivers. Join a support group online or in your community. Support groups can give you tips and solace or just a talking buddy when you need to vent. If you need a hug, ask for one.

4. Spend time with other people
Look for companions your own age and find ways to connect when you don’t have a lot of time. Take a break from talking about your loved one and your caregiving demands. Instead, chat about the latest best-seller, newest political news or a recipe.

5. Find some free outlets for your energy
Look for online clubs such as a book group or one centered around your favorite hobby. Find a walking group. Exercise can lift your spirits, energize your body and working out with others is a social outlet.

6. Your spouse, your kids, your parent
Don’t forget about your own family. Keep the lines of communication open with them so they better understand your multiple responsibilities. Take your children along on visits with your parents and encourage them to stay connected with their grandparents. Grandchildren can be good company. Make caregiving a multigenerational experience.

You may also like: Choosing a place to call home.

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