caregiver hugging elderly woman

Being a caregiver is a tough job. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that it’s not always all about the other person—sometimes you need to take some time to rejuvenate your own body, mind and soul. In fact, caregiver wellness is crucial for you and the person you’re caring for.

So if you are beginning to feel stuck—or are even having fantasies of escape—it’s probably time to care for yourself. This “restless caregivers syndrome” is perfectly normal. Mothers of young children get it and caretakers of the elderly and their loved ones get it. So don’t give yourself a guilt trip or think that there’s no end to life’s duties and intense responsibilities. Instead consider these helpful caregiver tips to help you find joy in life and address your own wants and needs.

  1. Be present in your own life. Schedule that cooking class, massage, shopping date with friends — or anything that can enhance the daily doldrums that are so easy to slip in to when you’re a caregiver. Getting the endorphins going through exercise or taking that much-needed vacation, as well as, letting your imagination be immersed in a good book, are also excellent ways to enjoy the many things life has to offer.
  2. Let yourself daydream. What do you want out of life? Brainstorm some fun goals you may have for yourself, whether it’s changing careers, learning a new language or creating a family blog. Maybe you just want to take a Photoshop class or learn how to use Excel more effectively. These goals can help you remember your own life and how to integrate activities for yourself around your caregiving. Remember that mental stimulation and achieving goals is needed to feel like your life is worthwhile for yourself!
  3. Create a support system. Needing to vent is perfectly healthy. In fact, it’s better to vent than let frustrations build up and fester (which isn’t healthy for you or those around you). So whether you have a friend or family member you like to talk to, make sure you have some time for a healthy vent each week. But also make sure these people can offer a healthy perspective to make sure you don’t spiral in an unhealthy direction. Having a specific amount of time to vent—15 minutes or so—is a good idea. That way your friend or loved one can vet your complaints. And having a professional counselor is an excellent option to offer perspective and sanity to your frustrations.
  4. Give yourself a break! You need time off, not only to achieve some of your goals, but also to get your mind off caregiving. If you have siblings, take turns, if possible. If needed, look into elder companions, respite programs or part-time nursing care.

 Above photo, courtesy of Philippe Leroyer on Flickr.


  1. Dorothy Brooks

    very helpful information

  2. Doug Scott

    I have been caring for my Aunt and living in with for more than three years now, and No help for her children, and the relatives live to far away to come to help for the day, it’s not been easy for me . The good thing is for me , I have a small business right here at her home. If it wasn’t for the wood shop keeping my mine off some of this , the staying at home most of the time, I don’t know how long I would have held up, now with a girl friend in my life, it seems to help getting away, even with the limited time I have . She understands, cause she is a staff nurse in a VET’s home . I wish some people would take the time to look at what I or some of us care givers have to sacrifice, I have some people say that if I need someone to sit with Aunt , but I never can get in touch with them at the time when you need one , I just hope the one’s that do help don’t quite being a friend, I sure don’t want to use them up.
    Some never know how frustrating it can be, even relatives don’t know what we go through. Some times I would like someone just to drop in to visit, maybe then I could Vent, I do have Elders helpers to help twice daily. It sure helps.

    • DanaLarsen

      Doug, I’m so glad you’ve been able to find a little balance to give yourself a much-needed break. Caregiving really can take a toll and, you’re right; is a big sacrifice. I would recommend having relatives help out, also. That would sure give them insight into the caregiving role!

  3. terri methier

    The 4 steps above are unrealistic for most people. Sounds good in theory but not
    at all feasible for most people. The people the above is targeted toare a group witha very good income and with money to burn.
    How would you schedule those extras? I work. My husband – God bless him – and I
    work out a schedule where I go to work late in the morning and work until late at night. That way I am home with my mother in the morning, and my husband is home with
    my mother in the evening.
    Vacation?? Did you read the article in the newsletter about the part where people are making 40% less than they did in 2007? My husband and I are making 68% less than we did in 2007. From a financial standpoint, a vacation is out of the question – not to mention the fact that who would look out for my mother. She had to move across country to live with us for a reason…. that she could not any longer look out for herself on a full time basis.
    How is one supposed to give themselves a break when there are no siblings or friends to help?
    Elder companions, respite programs and part-time nursing care require money that is
    not there.
    So your advise is only good for those that have someone else to help out – and a lot
    of disposable income.
    It would be nice to hear some thoughts on how people could cope that are not in the
    above brackets.
    Comments to that?

    • DanaLarsen

      Terri, the items I mention above do not require a lot of disposable income; especially if it’s just one day a week. In many instances, one sanity day (even if it’s only for a few hours) is all people need to recharge their batteries. My family did not have a lot of disposable income and they were able to hire a caregiver for a few hours a week to help give my mom a break. We also all took turns helping to care for my grandma.

      Also, in many instances, there are government programs to help you get a break. I would check with your state to see what’s available to you. And can you and your husband take turns caring for your mother on days when you’re not working so that the other person can get a break? Is there another family member who can relieve you every once in awhile?

      I specifically chose the above items because they didn’t require a lot of disposable income. Exercising, reading a good book and calling on friends and family as a support system are all free. And, as mentioned above, there are programs to help you hire elder companions, respite programs and part-time nursing care. You don’t need to take an expensive vacation — you can take a local “stay-cation” (which is popular in today’s depressed economy) or even go camping.

      I hope you do find a way to get some much-needed rest. You sound very busy. All the best to you and your husband!

    • Lisa

      Right on. This article is for rich folks. Of which would not be caring for their loved one at home they would institutionalize them and nver look back.

  4. Sandi

    I believe I can relate to where Teri is coming from, in that much of your advice, looks good on paper and even sounds good…until you try to work it into the reality of your daily living.
    My husband and I inherited his father living with us with Alzheimer’s when his wife passed away, and my husband’s only sibling overdosed. Along with that my father passed away, leaving my mother, who is basically able to do much for herself, and presently lives in senior housing but very needy emotionally and keeps seeking to ‘just die’. Add to the mix my oldest daughter, who lost her job after her divorce and had no where else to live. We have a tiny house with one bathroom and sometimes it feels ‘no where to go just to be alone’! Vacations are something you can only dream about. There is no money to pay someone to stay with my husband’s Dad for more than a day or two. I am one of five children, but my siblings want nothing to do with the daily care of my mom, let alone live with her or her with them!
    My husband & I still work, though fortunately are self-employed so are able to work from home with the exception of client appointments, where the other than covers the ‘staying home with dad’, as he cannot be left alone. I also am an artist and thankfully have my painting to escape into when I need to ‘get away’. But, there is a under current of frustration when you can never literally ‘get away’ from all the neediness of others! My husband walks with our dog twice a day which does help physically and mentally, but both of us find ourselves just plain
    ‘worn out’!
    Venting to others? Yes, there are friends that say, “Oh, I feel for you and don’t know how you do it.” but they really don’t want to be dragged into your daily craziness. As my Dad use to say, “When people ask, “How are you doing?”…they really hope you will say ‘fine’. I agree. One friend asked me a couple weeks ago, “How is it going, I have had you on my mind?” When I began to ‘vent’ she quickly lost interest in the conversation and said, “Yeh, everyone seems to be having a pretty hard time. Just pray for patience.” I got the message, and no longer choose to share the reality of our life here.
    I don’t mean to sound like I am inviting everyone that reads this to a “Pity Party”, but have come to realize much of what you read regarding care of the elderly is for the wealthy. The rest of us need to take one day at a time, do the best we can, and realize this stage of life will not go on forever. Soon, we will be the age of needing care…and the cycle goes on!

    • Linn Pas

      Sandy – Are you still out there? You worded it so eloquently ! Thank YOU.

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