Taking care as the caregiver

If you are a caregiver, you are more vulnerable to adverse effects on your health. The Rosalynn Carter Institute (RCI) for Caregivers, named after the former First Lady of the United States and founder, makes a case that the effects of caregiving are so profound that it should be addressed as a public health issue like smoking and obesity.

Caregivers are more likely to experience poorer health and higher stress than non-caregivers. There is even a direct relationship between the caregiver’s well-being and the loved one’s well-being. So as we are instructed on flights before take-off we must secure our oxygen mask before attempting to help those around us. Here are some strategies to take care of yourself as a caregiver:

● Communicate your role. You don’t have to tell anyone the personal details, but letting friends or a supervisor know that you currently have extra responsibilities caring for a loved one can help them support you along the way and be able to give you grace when you might need it the most.

● Ask the questions. Ask to be involved as a member of the care team, ask if there is a number you can call for questions, and ask them to go over the recommendations again; getting yourself the information and resources you need to be a caregiver confidently will help make caregiving a more positive experience.

● Accept help: Be prepared by listing tasks that a friend or family member can choose from to help you. For example, cooking or bringing dinner, taking your loved one to an appointment, picking up your kids from school, or taking the family dog for a walk. People often don’t know how they can help unless you tell them what will be helpful to you.

● Look out for compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is a rapid onset of symptoms that results from experiencing vicarious trauma. Described by WebMD as “the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of helping others-often through stressful experiences.” This is why it is commonly linked to being an occupational hazard in helping professions that regularly place you in stressful situations. Burnout is an element of compassion fatigue that is a more gradual and cumulative response to prolonged stress. Therapy is an effective way to treat compassion fatigue and burnout.

● Notice changes. When you notice an absence of the positive feelings associated with your caregiving role and experience noted changes in your mood, energy level, appetite, substance use, or sleep patterns, these could indicate that it’s time to take extra care of yourself. You can start by practicing a back-to-basics regimen of eating healthy, staying active and hydrated, and being well-rested when you feel overwhelmed. If symptoms persist, seek help from a medical professional.

● Get professional help for your loved one. Professional home care offers you a break from caregiving and can help you be more confident in your caregiving abilities.

● Practice Self-compassion. Dr. Kristen Neff, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, studies the link between self-compassion and mental health. Her work has shown that self-compassion can increase caregiver satisfaction and protect them from experiencing compassion fatigue and even burnout. Recognize that you are human and be realistic about what you can provide to others. See for more tips and guided exercises on how to practice self-compassion.

● Find personal support by seeking social connections and meaningful friendships. Maintaining friendships and social connections may not be as frequent as they used to be, but continuing to nurture those relationships can be a way to take care of yourself, even via Facetime or Zoom. You can also find caregiver support groups in your community or online. For example:

○ The Family Caregiver Alliance offers a Caregiver online support group for caregivers to discuss
their experiences with others.

○ The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers has partnered with Sharecare to provide a
minicourse on Caregiver Stress through an app called ‘Unwinding.’ The Unwinding app is
available for free through Apple or Google Play.

○ The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers offers programs to support caregivers supporting
dementia patients and veterans.

By Ashli Abernathy, LPC


AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020.

Family Caregiver Alliance (n.d.). Caregiver Health. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from
Neff, K., PhD (n.d.). Self-compassion for caregivers. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from

Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (n.d.). Recalibrating for Caregivers: Recognizing the Public Health Challenge. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from

WebMD (2022, December 2). Compassion Fatigue: Symptoms to Look For. Retrieved April 5, 2023,


Easter Holiday Activities for Seniors and Family
Previous Blog
Raise State Rates for Home Caregivers
Next Blog