Taking Care of Yourself
Why is it important to take care of yourself?
A flight attendant on an airplane gives the safety demonstration and says, “Place your own mask on before helping others.” The flight attendant instructs passengers to do this because if a passenger cannot breathe due to lack of oxygen, that person won’t be able to help others. The message to caregivers is to take care of yourself first. To some caregivers, this may sound selfish, but it is vital in order to make sure your family member receives the best care possible.
Family members and primary caregivers often put their own health behind the person who needs care. Like cooking a recipe on the stovetop, the caregiver often puts their own needs on the back burner while attending to the recipe in the front. Not taking care of your own health is similar to the pan in the back boiling over unexpectedly. Unfortunately, if the primary caregiver ends up in the hospital or worse, who will be responsible for the person needing care?
Starting a self care practice doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming.
Start small by first recognizing that your needs and health are important too. Even five minutes of deep breathing will help. Once you are comfortable with adding more time, think about other ways that would enhance your own wellbeing. What are your priorities? Do your priorities include improving your physical or mental health? Would you like to make new friends or do a social activity like go to the movies or a play? Can you commit to 30 minutes once a week? Can you find support to care of your loved one for an hour while you schedule a massage?
Hear from a caregiver from the Finding Meaning and Hope Discussion Series who learned to improve their stress through self care.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish.
Do one small thing for yourself and see how it goes. After you try this, think about the following questions: Do you feel a little better? Are there any challenges that make it difficult to do something you want to do for yourself? What are some ideas to overcome the challenges? If you need to hear some ideas from other caregivers, consider joining a support group or reaching out for help.
To learn more about the services and organizations go to, How do I find services? Where do I start?
To learn more about the specific needs of caring for a person with dementia, go to Physical Support.
A wise caregiver said, “I realized I couldn’t cure my mother, but I could work on healing myself.”
– p. 168, Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope while Coping with Stress and Grief by Dr. Pauline Boss
The information on this on this page was developed by Nicole Batsch, Ph.D. and is for educational purposes. For individualized medical guidance, consult your physician.