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Caregiver Connect: Care Starts with You

This is Your Flight Attendant Speaking

We all know the rule of airplane flight about putting on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help someone else with theirs. The same rule of thumb applies to family caregivers – the care must start with you!

It’s common for caregivers to feel as though it is selfish to focus on their own needs, when in fact it’s a necessary part of their job. As we start this New Year, I encourage you to work on planning self-care by initiating new healthy choices, goals, and rituals.

Caregiving can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Caregivers are at risk for mental health struggles and other issues including sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and not scheduling medical appointments for themselves. But there are simple ways to “grab your oxygen mask” and practice preventative self-care behavior.

Time for yourself. Short breaks for yourself make a big difference. Take a 10-minute walk around the block. Spend 20 minutes poking around your garden. Sit down and read a chapter of your book. Figure out what feels best for you and make it a ritual. Ask for and accept help. Break down jobs into simple tasks and ask for help and/or accept offers before you are overwhelmed. Friends and family do want to help if you’ll let them. Asking for help isn’t showing weakness, it’s an indication of personal strength. Stay socially connected. It can be difficult to keep social appointments, but it’s crucial to avoiding burnout and isolation. Support groups can also be valuable, recognizing that you’re not alone.

Remember, you are responsible for your own self-care. When your needs are addressed, the person you love and care for will benefit, too. Give yourself credit for the hard work you do because we sure do. Know that in this New Year of caring for yourself that we are here for you!


Marilyn Rippetoe, LCSW

Director of Family Services