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When we are caring for an aging family member, it is easy to forget that we also need to take care of ourselves.

Many caregivers find themselves in a situation where they feel they’re doing a good job as long as they don’t think about what they’re not doing. This can lead to resentment, guilt and exhaustion. But if you are the caregiver and you want to be able to keep providing care, you have to remember to take care of yourself.

Treating yourself well when caring for someone else may seem selfish, but it’s not. Caring for yourself means you will be better able to provide the level of care your family member needs.

Caretaking has a ripple effect on other people in your life as well. The more stressed you feel, the more likely you are to snap at others or just ignore them. When you don’t take time for yourself, it’s harder for you to be there for others.

By taking time each day for self-care, you can be more present with your family member as well as your friends and other loved ones. You will feel less resentful and more able to meet people’s needs and respond appropriately when they are upset — whether it is your family member who is upsetting them or someone else.

Here are some ways to maintain good health: 

– Arrange for regular respite care. This is an opportunity for you to get a break from your caregiving responsibilities. To learn more about respite care, contact the Area Agency on Aging in your area. You can also consider hiring a home healthcare aide; ask your doctor, friends, or family members for referrals.

Exercise regularly. Exercise will help reduce stress and may improve your physical stamina so you can continue to care for your loved one longer. Get a checkup from your doctor before starting any exercise program.

– Eat well and sleep well. It will help if you eat healthy foods and get enough sleep. You might want to keep a journal of what you eat and how much sleep you get each day. Are these habits affecting your mood? If so, try changing them. Some caregivers find it helpful to talk with their doctor or dietitian about healthy eating and managing stress.

– Keep in touch with friends and family members who know what you’re going through and be open to accepting their assistance.

– Use technology to lessen the burden of caregiving with medication management and monitoring service.  This will help provide peace of mind.

Remember, in the service of others, do not become a disservice to yourself.