Take Care of Yourself to Better Care for Others

Tips for Caregivers: Take Care of Yourself to Better Care for Others

Love, respect, duty and a desire to help may be some of the reasons you’ve stepped up to care for a friend or family member with a terminal illness. These last days, weeks or months are valuable times to both reminisce about the past and make new memories.

When someone enters hospice, your support may be the last act of love you are able to provide. But know that assisting someone at this emotional stage is difficult, making it easy for caregivers to feel burned out or develop serious health conditions.

Think about how you’ll manage this responsibility and also understand your rights. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, most employers are required to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave for family members who need time off to care for a spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition.

Also, be sure to acknowledge death and dying, since avoiding the discussion about death can actually add stress. If you don’t know where to start, just follow your loved one’s lead. Set aside quality time to be present with your loved one, aside from doing tasks for them.

Helpful tips to take charge of your emotional and physical health:


Acknowledge you can’t do it all. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Tasks and chores—like paying bills, washing dishes or household fix-it jobs—add up quickly. Identify what you do well or want to do for your loved one, then delegate the rest.

Practice gratitude Adopting an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean you have to be grateful for the illness, but grateful for the little things like coffee, a happy day, a beautiful sunrise or a friend stopping by.

Learn about the illness and what you should expect. Your doctor and hospice nurse are two great sources of information for this, and many major illnesses also have organizations dedicated to research, cure and support too.

Pay attention to your emotions. Caretaking can stir up complicated feelings. You may have great days and feel a deep sense of fulfillment and connection. But you’ll also have hard days filled with guilt, grief or anger. You might even have conflicting feelings, like love and resentment, at the same time. It can be challenging and exhausting.

Find constructive ways to express yourself and learn to walk away for a “time out” when you are angry or frustrated.

Some of the emotions you may experience may be:

• Anger
• Anxiety
• Boredom
• Depression
• Disgust
• Doubt
• Embarrassment
• Exhaustion
• Fear
• Frustration
• Grief
• Guilt
• Impatience
• Irritability
• Loneliness
• Loss of control, independence, future, identity
• Resentment

We tend to ignore grief, especially while our loved one is still alive, but anticipatory grief is perfectly normal. Mourn the person who is no more, while engaging with the person who is still with you. Just be with them and listen.


• Take time to relax
• Practice deep breathing or meditation
• Use aromatherapy
• Listen to music
• Get outside & enjoy nature
• Talk with your doctor
• Eat healthily
• Exercise
• Get 8 or more hours of sleep each night

To learn more, visit Tabitha.org/Hospice.