Take Care of Yourself! The Ultimate Caregiver Self Care Checklist
You’re on an airplane, and you see the oxygen mask fall in front of you.
Your first instinct is to grab your loved one next to you, and make sure they put their oxygen mask on first.
However, to your surprise…that’s exactly what flight attendants told you not to do in the event of an emergency.
No matter how much you love someone, you can’t help them unless you take care of yourself first. In this case, that means putting on your own oxygen mask first.
As a caregiver, this gut instinct is all too familiar. Caregivers are going to help the person they’re caring for—oftentimes even if it means sacrificing their own health.
But, what happens when this sacrifice goes a little too far?
What happens when we forget that we also have to remember to focus on caring for a caregiver?
What is caregiver fatigue and compassion fatigue?
When self care for the caregiver is put on the back burner, things get tough. It’s likely the caregiver could fall victim to caregiver fatigue or compassion fatigue.
Caregiver fatigue is when someone providing care becomes extremely burnt out, tired, and exhausted. Oftentimes, caregiver fatigue leads to a change in the caregiver’s attitude towards caregiving itself.
Compassion fatigue is when caregivers feel they have no more empathy left to give. This is because they're regularly exposed to the traumatic experiences of others.
It’s extremely important we encourage the caregivers in our lives—whether that be ourselves or our loved ones—to remember to focus on self care for the caregiver.
This can be done by implementing a caregiver self care checklist:
Caregiver Self Care Checklist
Creating a balanced routine is key to preventing caregiver fatigue.
At the beginning of each week, schedule out your days. You should schedule time throughout the week that's dedicated to focusing on yourself. Block off time for your doctor's appointments, or time to just simply relax and unwind.
Planning ahead saves you the panic of trying to make it to your own personal commitments last minute. It gives you time to find proper coverage, and to make sure you’re also making your own wellbeing a priority.
Reach out to other Caregivers
As someone who was a caregiver for my grandmother my whole life, I know how easy it is to feel like you’re alone.
There were countless days where I would hear what other people were up to, and it made me feel like no one else had the responsibilities I had.
But, now I know this could not be further from the truth.
Many people are in similar situations, but I didn’t realize this until I actively started reaching out and asking people about their experiences. Sometimes, reaching out to someone who gets what you’re going through, can make you feel much less alone.
Once I began surrounding myself with people who understood what my role of caregiver entailed, my mental health improved significantly.
If you don’t know other people in your life who are caregivers, try seeking out support groups.
There are many different options such as caregiver burnout support groups—where people in similar situations gather to discuss what they’re going through.
Sometimes simply knowing you’re not alone, is the ultimate form of self care for the caregiver.
Express what You’re Feeling
Whether you let your emotions out via therapy, journaling, or caregiver support groups—it’s crucial you have an outlet.
Oftentimes, caregiving will be one of the hardest jobs we take on in our lifetime. You may care deeply for the person you’re looking after, but that doesn't stop negative emotions from surfacing.
From my experience, caregiving led me to feel more feelings of guilt, anger, frustration, and stress than I've ever had in my life.
There were so many times where I wouldn’t let these emotions out, and would just let them build up inside. This ultimately leads to blowing up one day.
When this happens, it has the ability to impact your relationship with the person you’re caring for.
It's important to find a healthy outlet for releasing your emotions. Once you find this outlet, make it a priority in your caregiver self care checklist.
As a caregiver, you’ll have moments where you’re overwhelmed and tired. But, don’t let those temporary emotions make you feel like a bad person.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remind yourself of this: despite all the things you feel in the heat of the moment—the ultimate feeling behind being a caregiver, is a deeply rooted sense of love and compassion.
You’re doing the best you can.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you have friends and family in your life who you trust, don’t be afraid to ask them for help when you need it. Be realistic about the things you can do by yourself and what you can’t.
Oftentimes, you’ll be surprised to know how many people are there to help you in your time of need.
I know not everyone has friends or family that could help them in their role as caregiver. If you don’t have many people to help, I suggest checking out what community resources are out there to help you.
You’d be surprised at all the options that exist.
Some insurance providers and local organizations offer different caregiving services. There are also programs such as Meals on Wheels and transportation services that can help simplify some of your daily tasks.
Sometimes, having someone assist with routine tasks like meal planning and/or transportation, can make all the difference.
It helps alleviate a lot of your daily stress, so you can show up as the best version of yourself.
Be Kind to Yourself
The way you talk to yourself is so important.
Develop a daily routine for gratitude, and remind yourself that you’re trying your best.
Try gratitude journaling, or just speaking to a friend regularly to express what you’re grateful for. Simply focus on doing something consistently that reminds you to be kind to yourself.
Being a caregiver is a hard job. It’s not easy. And focusing on caring for a caregiver is crucial. No one is going to take care of you the way you can take care of yourself.
No one can do it all, but you’re trying your absolute best and even if your loved one may not always show it—they’re so grateful for what you do.
Remember to always be kind to yourself and to follow your caregiver self care checklist, so you can show up in your life as the best version of yourself.