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Self-Care for Caregivers

The caregiving journey can be long and challenging. Maintaining your own health and mental wellness will help you be a better caregiver and sustain you for the long haul.

Icon_key-points  Key Points

  • Caregiving may be physically and emotionally exhausting. If you find your attitude towards your loved one shifting from care to frustration due to exhaustion, you may be experiencing burnout.

Self-care involves an intentional and active maintenance of your well-being. You can do this by paying attention to your needs and finding ways to cope with stress. As a caregiver, you not only exert physical strength in assisting your loved one, you may also experience stress and anxiety. Therefore, not paying attention to your own needs might put you at greater risk of chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and pain in muscles and joints1.

Insufficient rest may also lead to burnout. A sign of this is when a caregiver’s attitude towards their loved one shifts from care to frustration, due to physical, mental, and/or emotional exhaustion2. Other symptoms are listed below:
Symptoms of caregiver burnout include: (1) Loss of interest in activities and withdrawal from loved ones, (2) Feeling sad, hopeless and irritable, (3) Changes in appetite, weight or sleep patterns, (4) Feeling emotionally and physically exhausted and falling ill more often, (5) Wanting to hurt oneself or the person being cared for

You can check your own stress levels with this Caregiver’s Stress Checklist. If you are experiencing the symptoms of stress and burnout (e.g. persistent changes in appetite, poor sleep patterns and negative emotions), seek help from professionals.

Actions to take

  • Check your stress levels with the Caregiver’s Stress Checklist and seek help if you are burnt out.
  • Seek help from professionals if you experience persistent symptoms of stress and burnout.

Icon_key-points  Key Points

  • There are ways to stay physically, emotionally and mentally healthy throughout the long and challenging caregiving journey.
  • You can do this by incorporating self-care into your care plan. 
  • It is important to practise self-care to prevent burnout, and you can take the following steps to overcome it. 

                                     Infographic shows what you can do to overcome burnout. You can be part of a community and join caregiver support groups (e.g. CaringSG). Take care of yourself and set realistic goals. Use caregiver support services or talk about your feelings with someone you trust. See a professional if needed.

Self-care can also involve engaging in leisure and recreational activities that would improve your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. This can reduce the risk of health issues in the long run and sustain your ability to provide care. Taking good care of yourself means better care for your loved one too.

Watch the video below to hear how Susan, who is caring for her daughter with down syndrome, practices self-care:

Practising self-care needs to be intentional. Incorporate it into your daily care plan through the following steps: 

As a caregiver, it is important to remain physically and mentally healthy to provide the best care for your loved one. Develop a care plan that considers your well-being. P: Plan and set realistic, bite-sized goals.  L: Learn new skills to help in your caregiving role.  A: Ask for and accept support from family, peers and care professionals.  N: Normalise taking breaks for your self-care.

If you do not have alternative caregiving arrangements or cannot find time for self-care, you can consider the following respite care services:

  1. Home-based care and respite services.
  2. Community-based facilities for respite care during the day

Additionally, you can reach out to caregiver support groups, where you can share your experiences with fellow caregivers.

Actions to take

  • Use pockets of time when your loved one is meaningfully occupied to engage in self-care.
  • Join a caregiver support group to receive tips and support from other caregivers.
  • Consider your own well-being when you develop a care plan for your loved one.

Icon_key-points  Key Points

  • Learning to ask for help is an important part of self-care.
  • Besides reaching out to those around you, counselling, caregiver support groups and caregiver support services are available.
  • Familiarise yourself with online resources which provide useful information for caregivers.

There are many avenues of help for you. If you need a listening ear, reach out to family members or close friends. When necessary, you can contact relevant service providers, seek professional help or call one of these helplines. You can also receive support from caregiver support groups and caregiver support services.

Watch the video below to hear how Susan, who is caring for her daughter with down syndrome, has benefitted from community support in her caregiving journey. 

Watch the video series “Caring Together” to see how two families lend support to each other as they care for their loved ones, and how they tap on the support of their family members and the community through their caregiving journeys.

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