Overcoming Barriers to Self-Care as a Caregiver

Overcoming Barriers to Self-Care as a Caregiver

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By Beveryly Nelson

The transition to family caregiving often comes as a surprise. An aging relative gets seriously ill or injured, and suddenly they need help and you're the only one available to give it. In the rush to meet their needs, you forget to think about how you'll keep yourself healthy with this new responsibility on your shoulders.

Finding space for self-care as a caregiver isn't easy, but it is important. The emotional and physical impacts of caregiving have long-term consequences for your health if ignored. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregiving contributes to chronic stress, depression, weakened immunity, and an overall decline in health for many caregivers.

By tending to your health, you can prevent the negative effects of caregiving while meeting your loved one's needs. But for many caregivers, calls for self-care beg the question: Where do I find the time?

Obstacles to Self-Care for Family Caregivers


Between meals, personal care, doctor's appointments, and housekeeping, a caregiver's day stays busy. Finding time for yourself is especially challenging when you're caring for someone with dementia who needs constant supervision.


Sixty-eight percent of caregivers say their career has suffered, US News reports, and 13 percent quit their jobs to provide full-time care. Spending money on yoga or a haircut may seem frivolous, if the money is there at all.

Making Self-Care Possible

Despite the obstacles, self-care is possible for family caregivers. By building a repertoire of healthy habits and small, low-cost self care practices, family caregivers can maintain their health and provide great care.

Eat a balanced diet

Eating well prevents chronic disease and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Time constraints and stress-fueled comfort eating make a balanced diet harder, but a few strategies can simplify your diet:

  • Stock nutritious snacks. Keep high-protein, low-sugar snacks like raw nuts, hard-boiled eggs, and unsweetened yogurt on hand for no-effort nutrition. Raw vegetables dipped in hummus is great when you're craving a crunchy snack, and foods like kale, asparagus, wild salmon, and quinoa contain mood-boosting nutrients.
  • Order healthier delivery. No, not take-out! Use a meal delivery service to save time shopping, planning, and cooking. The meals are easy, fast, and nutritionally balanced, and you can find options to fit any household size and dietary restrictions. Don't assume it's too expensive — some of the more affordable meal subscriptions go as low as $5 a meal.

Stay physically active

Staying active protects physical and mental health and gives you energy to be a good caregiver. You might not be able to get to the gym, but you can still lead an active life.

  • Exercise at home. If you can't leave your loved one alone, workout at home. Better yet, get your relative involved — exercise is good for seniors and people with disabilities too. Between YouTube videos and fitness apps, it's easy to find instructions for home workouts at every ability level.
  • Avoid too much sitting. A sedentary lifestyle has serious health consequences. Break up your daily responsibilities to avoid long periods of sitting.
  • Get out together. Staying active in the community benefits you and your loved one. If possible, plan outings together. Even a simple trip to the park is an opportunity for physical and social enrichment.

Practice simple self-care

Little moments of positivity sprinkled throughout the day do wonders for your emotional well-being. Try these strategies for self-care when you’re pressed for time:

  • Adopt a relaxing bedtime routine. Sometimes the few minutes before bed are the only bits of alone time you get in a day. Take a few moments to clean up, get into comfortable clothing, and unwind.
  • Step outside. A few minutes of sunshine and fresh air can do wonders for your emotional state. When you feel a need to press the reset button, go outdoors.
  • Breathe deeply. Deep breathing is naturally relaxing. When you’re overwhelmed, pause and take deep breaths, breathing slowly to fill your belly before releasing.

Being a family caregiver may be the most challenging thing you do. But if you remember to take care of yourself, it can also be a wonderfully positive experience. As you set out on your caregiving journey, make sure there’s time for you in the schedule.

Image via Unsplash

Image Bev NelsonThank you to Beverly Nelson for this important article.
You can find more information at her website StandUpForCaregivers.org

Our family of Christ-followers at Oviedo Presbyterian Church strongly believes in reaching out to our community members, giving ourselves in service, and supporting each other as we minister in Jesus' name. We invite you to become part of our family serving God and our neighbors.