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Taking Care of Yourself, When You’re the Caregiver




In honor of National Caregivers Day on February 17th, DUOS would like to acknowledge all those who serve as caregivers for family, friends, and people in their communities.

Being a caregiver for an aging adult is a rewarding — but often challenging — experience. Caregivers report high levels of stress, depression, burnout, loss of sleep, and generally deteriorating physical health. Additionally, many caretakers find themselves withdrawing from social activities and being less productive at work due to the emotional, mental, or physical toll of their caregiving responsibilities. 

Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways you can support the family member or friend you’re helping. Here are a few suggestions to help you manage your health and well-being. 

Start by setting goals for yourself 

Caregivers often measure themselves against impossible standards. To take care of yourself, consider realistic goals around: 

  • Being kind to yourself, knowing you are doing the best you can. 
  • Prioritizing your physical health by eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, and making time for physical activity.
  • Avoiding isolation by connecting with friends, family, or other caregivers regularly. 
  • Asking for help before you get overwhelmed. 

Look for online resources 

There is a wide variety of online resources to help you navigate caregiving. Here are just a few to get you started: 

  • A comprehensive caregiving resource, provides a wealth of information and help, including classes, support groups, health condition information, and lists of local resources by state. 
  • The Well Spouse Association provides unique insights and support for people who have become caretakers for their spouses or partners. 
  • Condition-based resources: If your aging adult has a specific medical condition, search the web for information and communities tailored to your situation, such as: 
    Alzheimer's Association
    ALS Association
    American Cancer Society
    Courage to Caregivers
    (for those struggling with mental health)
  • Mobile apps: Many mobile apps can help you manage your caretaking duties and keep yourself healthy. Some are designed especially for caregivers and others are focused on general health and wellness. Check out this list of 34 apps for caregivers to see some of the options. 

Join a support group 

Caregiving can be isolating. Whether in your local community or online, a support group full of people in situations similar to yours can help you feel less alone. Support groups are a great way to get ideas, learn about resources, share experiences, and vent frustrations when necessary. (Note: Most caregiver support groups are free to join. Do extra research before paying a fee to join a support group.) 

Get support from family and friends 

Chances are, friends and family want to help you, but they don’t know how to contribute. When people ask what they can do to help, be prepared. For example: 

  • Make a list of tasks people can do, from preparing food or doing laundry to visiting with your aging  adult or providing transportation assistance. (Note: Add a few things people out-of-town can do, such as making telephone calls or online shopping.) 
  • Use online help-coordination tools such as Lotsa Helping Hands to post requests for support, and when people volunteer to help, they’ll get reminders so they don’t forget! 
  • Share updates about your aging adult and get support from your loved ones through information-sharing websites, like CaringBridge.

Take a break

Caretaking can feel like a full-time job. However, to be a great caregiver, you need to take a break sometimes. That might be a trip out of town, a weekend “staycation” in your own city, or a day to focus on your own household tasks or hobbies. The point is you get a well-deserved break from caretaking duties.

To get time to yourself, start planning early. Figure out: 

  • Who: Can a reliable friend or family member help in your absence or do you need professional support?
  • What: Does your aging adult need constant care or just a check-in each day? What tasks need to be done and who can do them? 
  • How much: If you need to pay for services (such as in-home help or respite care) while you are away, how much will it cost? (Hint: Check local organizations to find out if funds are available for respite care or in-home care.) 

Before you leave, consider doing some trial runs—helping the aging adult and substitute caregiver(s) learn the ropes while you’re still accessible. 

You’re one in a million (or actually 53 million)  

For the aging adult(s) in your care, you are truly one in a million. But, know that you’re not alone. In 2020, the Alliance for Caregiving and AARP reported that more than one in five Americans (53 million adults) were caregivers, and that number is projected to grow considerably in the next few years. So, keep an eye out for more resources online and in your community.

DUOS can help older adults and their caregivers find and use resources that help them live more independently. DUOS’ services may be available at no cost to you with your health insurance. Call us at (855) 212-9242 to see if you qualify or learn more.

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