Understanding the Importance of Self-Care
When it comes to the health of a loved one, the caregiver’s role is critical and often complex—from buying groceries and cleaning the house to booking appointments and administering medication.
As a nurse practitioner in our busy lung center, I often see caregivers struggle to prioritize taking care of themselves when they’re focusing all their time, energy and emotion on someone else’s well-being. But I always tell patients self-care is important because if they’re not able to function then they won’t be able to provide the care that is needed for the patient.
1. Be Aware of Burnout Warning Signs
Sometimes, you may not realize the toll your responsibilities are taking on your mind and body. Uncertainty, change, money, legal matters and emotions are all stressors that can unexpectedly creep up. This is why it’s important to watch out for the warning signs of caregiver burnout such as:
- Sleep deprivation
- Poor eating habits
- Little to no exercising
- Putting off your own medical appointments
2. Gather Information
For many caregivers, the initial stages of a loved one’s disease may be the most demanding because information and expectations are still evolving during the diagnosis and development of a treatment plan. This may also make it hard to concentrate during appointments, leaving you feeling uncertain and insecure. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your medical team. Plus, if you bring a notebook with you during appointments, you can document all the details and then revisit the information anytime.
If you’re searching for tips on caregiving, remember to utilize reliable resources. URLs endings in .gov, .org and .edu are typically good indicators that a website is secure. When reading an article, pay attention to dates and authors; ask yourself: is this article current? Is this author a trusted professional? Again, always circle back to your care team if you have any questions or concerns.
3. Take Time for Yourself
Try something new.
Breaks from caregiving are essential, which is why we encourage you to maintain a life outside of caregiving. Join a class to teach yourself a new skill. Book a monthly massage appointment. Treat yourself to a quiet cup of tea at a nearby cafe. When you take time to rest and recuperate, you’re also giving your loved one an opportunity to restore as well.
Change your thinking.
Sometimes, negative thoughts can be a roadblock to positive behavior. The next time you find yourself saying "There's no way I have the energy to exercise" or “I will never find time to read that new book” try to reverse them into positive statements: "I can muster the strength to exercise for 15 minutes while my loved one takes a nap” or “I’m going to read one chapter before bed each night.”
Ask for help from friends and family.
Delegate simple tasks like laundry or meal preparation and you’ll find the few regained minutes add up to a larger chunk of time.
4. Seek Out Support
Caring for someone with a chronic lung disease like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or Pulmonary Fibrosis is a challenge, but the right support can help improve quality of life for both you and your loved one.
Consider connecting with a local support group or joining an awareness event.
Here you can meet people who understand what you're facing because they may be facing similar situations. Specialists in the Temple Lung Center host several free monthly support groups, including one for COPD patients, friends and family. To learn more about the support group and register for the next session call 215-707-5864 or email Susan.Estrella@tuhs.temple.edu.