Taking Care of Yourself When Taking Care of Others

Taking Care of Yourself When Taking Care of Others

Taking Care of Yourself When Taking Care of Others

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Look around and you’ll see caregivers. In the U.S., 1 in 3 adults give care to others. Caregivers may be taking care of elderly parents, a sick spouse or disabled child.

Being a caregiver can be very stressful and demanding. It can even lead to caregiver burnout — a feeling of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. Burnout can often lead to poor health and feelings of depression or anxiety. Caregivers may turn to unhealthy behaviors, like smoking or abusing alcohol, to cope with the pressures.

Watch for Signs

Learn the warning signs of caregiver burnout. The Cleveland Clinic leaving site icon says signs may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Getting sick more often
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling irritated or moody
  • Changes in appetite, weight or both
  • Denial about your loved one’s health problem
  • Anger or frustration toward the person in your care
  • Social withdrawal from people and activities that you used to enjoy
  • Thinking about hurting yourself or the person for whom you are caring
Self Care

If you suffer from burnout, find ways to take care of yourself. Here are a few ways you can stay healthy:

  • Accept help. List the ways others can lighten your load. Let helpers choose what they would like to do. They could pick up groceries or take your loved one for a walk.
  • Be kind to yourself. It's normal to feel guilty sometimes. No one is a "perfect" caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can at any given time.
  • Cope with negative feelings. It’s normal to feel upset or angry about your duties or with your loved one. It does not mean you are a bad person.
  • Set realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps. Say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
  • Connect with resources. Find out about caregiving support in your community. Services such as transportation, meal delivery or housekeeping can help.
  • Seek social support. Find someone you trust and can talk with about your feelings and frustrations. Set aside time each week for connecting.
  • Join a caregiver support group. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others in the same situation can help you handle stress. With support, you may feel less lonely. There’s even a free Caregiver Help Desk. leaving site icon
  • Be realistic about your loved one's disease. Know that there may come a time when your loved one needs nursing services or assisted living outside the family home. The Family Caregiving Alliance leaving site icon encourages reaching out to others in similar roles.
  • Talk to a professional. Most therapists, social workers and clergy members are trained to counsel people dealing with a wide range of physical and emotional issues.
  • Nurture your own health. AARP suggests leaving site icon a good sleep routine, physical activity most days of the week, and fueling your body with a healthy diet.
  • Take advantage of respite care. Respite care provides regular care givers with breaks. They can range from a few hours of in-home care to a short stay in a nursing facility. Find help at the Access to Respite Care and Help (ARCH) National Respite Network and Resource Center's National Respite Locator. leaving site icon

If you need any more assistance (such as finding a provider), please call us at the number on the back of your BCBSIL member ID card. We are here to help.

Sources: Caregiver Stress, Tips for Taking Care of Yourself, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2022; Caregiver Burnout, Steps for Coping with Stress, leaving site icon AARP, 2021: Caregiver Burnout, leaving site icon Cleveland Clinic, 2019; Caregiver Help Desk, leaving site icon Caregiver Action Network, 2022; Resources by Health Issue or Condition, leaving site icon Family Caregiver Alliance.

Originally published 5/5/2020; Revised 2022