How you can help yourself and become a self-caregiver

There is nothing selfish about caregivers who take care of themselves first and then of a loved one with debilitating or disabling medical condition. Quite the contrary; you want to be at the top of your game in order to provide your relative with the best possible care. It’s like an athlete who trains to be in the best shape and practices to perform to the highest level all for the ultimate greater good of his or her team. Sadly, caregivers are sometimes in such emotional disarray that they have a warped perception of their feelings, which is one of the reasons for these here recommendations.

Understand your feelings

You may feel…


How to address it


·         A loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.

·         Do not hide or mask your feelings. It’s perfectly to be sad and show it – e.g., crying.


·         Fear, panic, or stress, often manifest themselves as anger at yourself, at the care receiver, or at the rest of your family.

·         Do not take your anger out on others, especially the care receiver. Find healthy ways to release your frustration.


·         You’re losing a loved one, or because you have lost yourself to caregiving.

·         Focus on the present and make the best of the time you have left with your loved one.


·         You feel you’re not doing enough to help your relative; you may even feel survivor’s guilt even though your loved one hasn’t died yet, because you’re still healthy and he or she isn’t.

·         It’s not your fault that your loved one is sick. It’s also not your fault that you have been thrust into the position of caregiver; you’re bound to make mistakes as you learn, so don’t beat yourself up over them.


·         Caregiving leaves you little or no time to socialize. Conversely, if the care receiver is mentally ill, people may avoid you due to the social stigma that mental illness carries with it.

·         Remain hopeful that things will improve as time goes by.


Never mind whether or not you’re doing enough; it’s a fact that no matter how hard they try, a single caregiver simply can’t do it all. Moreover, one of the things that make caregivers angry is that friends and relatives are conspicuous by their absence when you need help (some caregivers feel they have to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders; help in any shape of form would mean they’re slacking off. As it turns out, though, asking for help is a way to help yourself, and by helping yourself you’re helping your loved one as well – but be ready to take no for an answer).

Asking for and accepting help

Help yourself to…

Others can help you with…

Other can’t help because…

·         Better health.

·         More energy.

·         Less guilt.

·         Skilled assistance.

·         Cooking.

·         Gardening.

·         Cleaning.

·         Babysitting.

·         Grocery shopping.

·         Eldercare.

·         Errands.

·         Research.

·         Things you can’t do yourself because of lack of time or know-how.

·         They have their own problems.

·         They lack time at the moment.

·         Don’t know how to help (in which case you might be able to enlighten them).

·         They feel ill at ease around sick and/or elderly people.


It is a basic tenet of caregiving that the caregiver should make sure the care receiver keeps all his or her medical appointments, takes his or her medicines – for which purpose home care medical supplies such as medication planners are ideal –, exercises, eats healthily, gets enough rest, and such and so. Many caregivers find it difficult to get their loved ones to comply with those actions – could it be that they are not leading by example enough? Granted, it might be hard to find the time to do all those things, what with being a caregiver and all that that entails. But that’s precisely the point; caregiving also entails caring for and helping yourself. In fact, you should be a bit selfish now and then and devote some time solely to yourself doing some or all of the following:

·         Watching TV.

·         Reading a book.

·         Meditating.

·         Calling a friend.

·         Working on a hobby.

·         Dancing.

·         Playing with kids or pets.

·         Going out alone or with friends.

·         Overall taking time off – even going on a vacation – and doing whatever tickles your fancy (provided you get someone to sub for you in the meantime).

Nobody can be a caregiver all the time, but taking breaks from caregiving when your body and mind call for it is the best way to make sure you will be to provide care for your loved one as long as possible or necessary.

Related: What is Respite Care for Caregivers?