How to Practice Self-Care When Caring for a Loved One

by Janet Campbell

At the Judy Nicholson Kidney Cancer Foundation, we understand that taking care of a loved one is a big responsibility, and it comes with so much to think about that stress and anxiety are an inevitable part of the job. If you’re a senior, it’s crucial to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, and finding a balance between your needs and the needs of your loved one can be challenging. Self-care is often seen as time-consuming, but there are actually several easy things you can fit into your schedule to help your mind and body relax.

There are some acts of self-care that focus solely on your mental health, while others will help keep you safe and your body fit. Read on to learn about some tips on how you can practice self-care.

Taking advantage of programs for seniors

There are many programs available to seniors through Medicare, including Silver Sneakers, which helps older adults stay active by providing access to gyms, wellness centers, and other fitness-focused organizations. You must be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan to participate, so do some research to find out whether you qualify and how an Advantage plan can benefit you. Taking advantage of the Silver Sneakers program is a great way to exercise and socialize, both of which can boost your physical and mental health.

If you feel more comfortable exercising on your own or at home, there are plenty of ways you can add activity to your daily routine, even when you’re caring for someone else. Consider waking up five minutes early to do a few rounds of jumping jacks, or do some squats while brushing your teeth, take your loved one for long walks, stop for 5 minutes several times in the day to quickly jog in place or do some bicycle crunches. You can even use your smartwatch to track your progress. For extra motivation, splurge on a stylish new watch band that reminds you to do something for yourself every day.

Setting aside time for yourself

It’s not always easy to focus on your own needs when you’re taking care of a loved one. For example, you may experience guilt at the thought of putting your needs first. This is a common issue for many caregivers, but by making time for yourself, you’re actually ensuring that you’re the best you can be for yourself and your loved one. Set aside a few minutes in the morning to meditate, read, or go for a walk. This will allow you to clear your mind and will set a positive tone for the rest of the day.

Asking for help

It can be difficult for some to ask for help, especially when they have taken on the responsibilities of caring for a loved one. There is no shame in accepting some assistance or in asking someone to lend a hand when things get stressful. It can be something as small as requesting that a family member helps with household chores so you can focus on other things, but the benefits are certain: You’ll reduce the load on your shoulders and ease some stress at the same time.

Making sleep and nutrition a priority

Self-care comes in many forms, but there are a couple of aspects that often go overlooked by caregivers. It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep and that you’re eating well-balanced meals, no matter how busy you are. Many caregivers place themselves low on a list of priorities because they want to take care of their loved one first, but you can’t expect to be on top of things when you’re exhausted or hungry.

If your loved one requires care well into the night, look for a way to work restful sleep into your schedule in the daytime. You might also combat sleep interruptions by taking certain steps to improve your loved one’s comfort. If it’s in your budget, set up a meal delivery service that will send nutritious ingredients right to your door, or consider doing some meal prep on Sunday for the rest of the week. This will ensure that you have healthy, delicious meals at the ready without having to spend precious time preparing them.

Practicing self-care when you’re a caregiver takes a little planning and creativity, but it’s important to take your own needs into consideration every day. Finding positivity and happiness will help to reduce stress and anxiety and will allow you to be the best possible version of yourself for your loved one.