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Beyond Burnout: 9 Game-Changing Tips to Sustain Your Caregiving Journey

Being a family caregiver for your partner, parent, adult child, or sibling, is like having a full-time job with grueling hours, zero pay,  no time off, and no colleagues to support you.

It also takes a toll on your physical and mental health. 

Raise your hand if: 

🙋You’re friends just don’t seem to get how hard it is

🙋You’ve noticed some extra pounds creeping in during your caregiving journey

🙋You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop

You’re not alone. And we know you can’t keep going on like this – it’s just not sustainable to be doing everything – and more – all the time.

So here we share 9 tips to help you care for yourself. 

Feeling guilty about making time for yourself? Think again! Research shows that caring for yourself isn’t selfish—it’s crucial for you and your loved one. 

1. Normalize your feelings

It’s ok to both take pride in and feel completely overwhelmed by the caregiving role. Rather than masking or downplaying your struggles, acknowledge them as valid. Acknowledging how you’re feeling is actually the first step to identifying your own needs. And remember to cut yourself some slack and not be too hard on yourself. 

2. Delegate like a Pro

Reduce stress as much as possible and consider delegating some of the responsibility to helpful family, friends, members of your faith community, or caring neighbors! Need tips? Check out our blog!  

3. Advocate for Your Needs

Advocate for yourself and your loved one! This means making your needs and the needs of your loved one known.  Ensure that medical providers are aware of your concerns and informational needs. Work together with the providers to learn the warning signs that more medical attention than you’re able to provide is needed. 

Pro tips to help you advocate:

  1. Keep a current list of medications and bring this to every medical visit or hospital stay. 
  2. Write down your questions ahead of time and bring them to your loved ones’ appointments 
  3. Reflect back in real-time to make sure you’re hearing things correctly.  “So it sounds like the next steps are xx for your office and yy for us” or “So it sounds like Dad needs to take this medication every morning for 7 days. Then he can stop the medication. Is that correct?”

4. Preserve Your Own Health

Preserve your own health while you’re caring for a loved one.

Here are some activities to help you stay healthy and sane: 

    • Journal.  Write about your experiences to help you process your and your loved ones journey
    • Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing
    • Seek professional advice and support from your own doctor, a therapist, or a caregiver coach
    • Set specific goals for the day and prioritize them in order of acuity or importance. 
    • Ask for and accept help! It may take some effort to find the best resources that fit your needs, but once secured, they will undoubtedly add value to your lives.
    • Exercise. Find ways to move your body each day. This can help lessen stress, boost energy, and promote a feeling of good health.

5. Get Educated

Learning about what’s to come with the illness and what to expect can help you feel more prepared. This means connecting with the healthcare team to talk about what your loved one is facing and what you may be facing as their caregiver.  

6. Plan Ahead Before a Crisis

While it may be hard to think about, looking ahead to the future of your loved ones’ health can be beneficial. Talking about things before they become a crisis allows you to be thoughtful and approach care with meaning. 

It’s important to review plans for care should your loved one become incapacitated. Some things to consider: identifying and completing Healthcare agent/proxy, settling financial affairs and identifying power of attorney, advanced care planning. 

Not sure how to talk to your loved one about their health wishes now and in the future? Click here to learn about Unlock the Conversation, an online course that walks you through the conversation, step by step. 

7. Set Boundaries

Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Being clear about your role allows others to plan and take responsibility for the pieces that won’t fall to you.  

8. Celebrate Wins

Celebrate wins (even the small ones)—like “Mom didn’t have a fall this week!” or “We were able to manage the UTI at home!” Solid data shows that reflecting and celebrating wins builds resilience and reduces burnout.  

9. Stay Connected

It can feel really hard to prioritize other people in your life, but it’s essential. Stay connected, whether it’s to friends or support groups! Take that second to send a quick text or call a friend. Having community fortifies you. 

Bottom Line

Caring for yourself as a caregiver is a tall task, and often, it takes a back seat to caring for a loved one. Our coaches are here to help you be the loving caregiver you are while also making sure you still take care of yourself. Click here and learn more about how caregiver coaching can help you!

Now I’d Love to Hear From You!

1. Which of these ideas will you use to better care for yourself?

2. What are your go-to self-care strategies?

Let me know in the comments below.

Here for you 💖

Ashwini Bapat, MD

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Ashwini Bapat, MD is a board-certified Palliative Care and Hospice Physician, coach, and co-founder of EpioneMD. She completed her Internal Medicine Residency and Hospice & Palliative Medicine Fellowship at Yale University, before working at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She’s devoted to empowering caregivers so that they’re seen, heard, and supported.

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