Self-Care Can Make You a Better Caregiver

Providing care for a loved one can be rewarding and uplifting. Caregivers often selflessly give up taking care of themselves to provide around-the-clock care for a loved one. Maintaining the stamina to provide care to your loved one is important, but when the caregiver takes control of their own physical, emotional and mental health, you can care for your loved one even better.

Caregivers are faced with many challenges such as emotional stress, financial obligations and lack of family support. Often times, caregivers struggle with the guilt of leaving their loved one in order to recharge or take care of themselves.

Kathy Sheets, LCSW, behavioral health consultant with Memorial Behavioral Health–Counseling Associates, explains the importance of self-care for family caregivers. “Caregivers should try to refrain from guilty thoughts when allowing themselves self-care,” Sheets said. “The significance of taking care of yourself is so great, because the stress will weigh down your immune system which puts you at high risk of becoming ill yourself.”

Allow yourself time to engage in activities that bring you pleasure and joy. “Don’t hesitate to ask family members to come over to sit with your loved one so you can exercise, take a painting class or read a book,” Sheets said. “Friends, churches or adult daycares are also great community resources to reach out to for help. Make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep, too.”

Be mindful of your mental health; it’s equally as important as your physical health. Caregivers can be helping loved ones battling dementia, Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain injuries which cause personality changes. “Dealing with these changes not only is an emotional roller coaster and possibly takes a physical toll but can also lead to depression and anxiety,” Sheets said. “If this is the case, it may be time to consider long-term care. Seek the counsel of family members and/or a financial advisor.”

If you are feeling overwhelmed and it’s affecting your daily functioning, help is available. If you or someone you know are concerned about a caregiver, take a free, anonymous screening at MemorialBehavioralHealth.org.

Kathy Sheets is a licensed clinical social worker at Memorial Behavioral Health–Counseling Associates and provides a full range of mental health services. She specializes in the development and delivery of psychosocial rehabilitation services with an emphasis on rehabilitation through social skills training, community support and counseling for individuals with severe and persistent mental illnesses. Her treatment focus includes bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, adjustment disorders, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder