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Caregiver Self-Care: Take Care Of You

Caregiver Self-Care: Take Care Of You
By Kristina James
Published by Ruby

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Taking care of others is so hard.

Taking care of yourself is sometimes harder.

Parker Palmer, an American author, educator, and activist says that self-care is never a selfish act. It is taking care of the one thing you have to use to care for others. And he would know: He’s the founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal.


You cannot take care of the person you love if you’re not in good health yourself.

Self-care is way more than a glass of chardonnay in a bubble bath, except for when it’s totally a glass of chardonnay in a bubble bath. Self-care needs to happen in every area of your life.


Some general examples of self-care:

  • exercise
  • massage
  • that bubble bath
  • balanced diet
  • hydration
  • journaling
  • time with friends
  • walks
  • honoring your feelings
  • whatever inspires you
  • meditation
  • prayer
  • yoga
  • being in nature
  • therapy
  • support groups
  • asking your MD about support if you need it


When you are caring for others, your self-care needs to ramp up to an eleven. Think of it in terms of water:

When you’re pouring into someone else’s life, your well empties much faster. You need to fill yourself back up before you can keep pouring.
How to care for yourself:

Here are 4 Smart Steps to self-care.


1. Give yourself permission to feel frustrated.

This isn’t easy, on anyone. And the guilt or anger you feel at having to sacrifice your time and a lot of your life for the care of your loved one is not a reflection on how much you love them. These are two separate issues.


2. Delegate.

Identify who is in your life — and your loved one’s life — that could be helpful.

Could your sister take mom to the doctor? Or, if she lives out of town, could she come every 3 months for a weekend so you can get away?

Could a neighbor or community friend sit with your mom 2-4 hours a day once a week? And could you find more than one?

Read this piece about putting together your team.


3. Make time for you.

It may seem like the last thing you want to do, but get up 15 minutes earlier and meditate, starting the day with slow breaths. Write 3 things you are grateful for in a journal, and make this a ritual while you drink a cup of hot tea.

When you are cooking in the kitchen, listen to a podcast. Treat yourself to that bubble bath or get some essential oils and add a drop or two to your shower and breathe deeply while you have on some nice calming music… do this for yourself.

Plan things to look forward to. It’s amazing the light that a bright spot in the future can bring to the present.


4. Gather Resources.

Are there resources out there you don’t know about that could help you? Is there a local Alzheimer’s support group that might have daycare during the program?

Maybe they have grant funding for respite hours that you could use to pay a sitter while you go for a hike with your best friend every Saturday morning? Or, maybe there are Adult Daycares that you could access and use 1-2 times a week so you can have more concentrated time to refuel your tank.


The bottom line is this: Be preventative.

Burnout is a part of caregiving. It isn’t easy to avoid, but if you act preemptively, you can lessen its effects. And, remember, when it all feels hard, go back to #1:


Stop feeling guilty.

If your best friend was feeling this way and telling you this, what would you tell them? Would you think they were a terrible person? NO! You would tell them they have to take care of themself first.

It’s just like the airlines advise: “Attach your own mask FIRST.”

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