Put Yourself First: How to Be a Better Caregiver

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You do it all: prepare meals, clean the house, manage medicines, go to appointments, and provide a shoulder to lean on. Although the list is never-ending, you do it with compassion and selflessness. You don't consider yourself a caregiver because you're just doing what's right for someone you love.

Taking care of a loved one when they're sick or injured can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. It's OK to feel tired and stressed. Here are some ways to manage it all:

1. Assemble a support team

If friends or family offer to help, suggest specific things they can do. Sitting with your loved one for an hour a week, picking up a few items at the grocery store, or jumping in on household chores can be a tremendous help. Additionally, many Medicare Advantage plans may offer programs that can help you find resources within your community for support, such as meal delivery or transportation to doctor's appointments.

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2. Create a self-care bag

This bag of goodies has all your favorite things for when you're in need of a little pick-me-up. Fill it with the things you need to keep your day-to-day in a state of positive well-being like walking shoes, an inspirational book, a water bottle, a healthy snack, or a journal. It's important to check in and take a moment for yourself.

3. Unplug and recharge

Every caregiver needs a well-deserved break. A break doesn't mean you're abandoning the person you're caring for or deserting your caregiving obligations. It simply means you're taking an emotional pause — a pause that allows you to recharge and, ultimately, become a more effective caregiver.

4. Try a 5-minute body scan

Mindfulness can help you clear your head and provides a calming effect when things get hectic. Begin with your feet ― notice how your toes feel in your shoes. Slowly move your awareness up through your body, checking in with each part. Your legs. Your arms. Your torso. Become aware of your posture. Lift your head up high. Tuning in to your body helps you take better care of yourself.

5. Make exercise a part of your routine

Research shows that people who are physically active usually feel less depressed and anxious. The recommended goal is 30 to 40 minutes of moderately intense exercise at least three times a week. If you can't make it to the gym, get some fresh air and go on a walk or hike. Or you can download a fitness app to help keep you moving and active.

Being a caregiver can feel overwhelming. You're doing a remarkable thing for someone else but remember to reach out for help when you need it. Asking for help not only gives you a much-needed break, but it allows you to become a better caregiver for your loved one.

Amy Capomaccio is a health care writer at Aetna with experience in senior wellness, Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial health care. When she's not practicing new mindfulness techniques, Amy is spending time outdoors and traveling. Amy hails from Wakefield, MA and has a degree in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Tampa.

Speak to a licensed Aetna representative about Medicare
Monday-Friday 8am to 8pm CT, Sat. 9am to 5pm CT
1-833-217-8226 (TTY: 711)

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