The foundation of caregiving is self-care for the caregiver. Remember how airplane emergency procedures instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask first, before you help someone else with their mask? Caregiver self-care is like that. The idea is that you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Making yourself your first priority isn’t about selfishness – it’s about survival.
It makes sense that caregivers can’t take care of others well if they don’t take care of themselves, too. If you’re a caregiver, though, chances are that you put the health and well-being of your loved one, and anyone else who depends on you, before your own needs. That might work in the short term if you’re fairly healthy. But most caregivers who don’t put themselves first risk serious physical and emotional health problems. And if you get sick or you burn out, who will take care of your loved one?
This section can help you learn how to take care of yourself as a caregiver. If you’re not convinced that your needs must come first, see the section Why is Caregiver Self-Care So Important? If you’re worried that caregiving is already taking a toll on you, see the section Caregiver Stress and Burnout. If you’re ready for some practical advice, see the section Guidelines for Caregiver Self-Care