Image of hands, representing caregiving

Living with a chronic illness, like rheumatoid arthritis, already presents its unique challenges. When you add caring for a loved one to the mix, the demands can sometimes feel overwhelming. I understand this first-hand. As a family nurse with RA, I’ve had my fair share of tough days. Thankfully, my family and friends support me through the highs and lows. In return, I’m there for them, whether they’re battling a minor cold or facing something as serious as cancer.

My decision to become a nurse stemmed from a genuine desire to help and support others — it’s an integral part of who I am. However, RA can sometimes make fulfilling this role more challenging than I’d like.

Yet, caregiving isn’t just about tending to significant health issues. It can be as simple as babysitting a nephew for a night or ensuring kids get to school on time. Regardless of the scope, caregiving is demanding, and it’s even more so when we, the caregivers, aren’t feeling our best. Our own well-being can easily take a backseat.

Having worked closely with patients for over 17 years, I’ve witnessed many of them transition into caregiver roles. It’s always led me to wonder, “How do they manage?” Thankfully, U can draw strength from their insights and experiences. On days when I’m juggling my own health and supporting others, their advice helps.   

13 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

Here are some tips for caregivers who are also managing their own health issues: 

Look After Your Well-Being

Remember the airplane analogy: secure your oxygen mask first before assisting others. Your health is paramount. If you’re not well, it becomes challenging to care for your loved one. 

Address Health Concerns Promptly

If you sense something’s off with your health, get it checked sooner rather than later. Early intervention can prevent prolonged illnesses or hospitalizations. 

Keep Emergency Contacts Handy

Maintain a list that includes the phone numbers of friends, family, and neighbors who can step in if needed. 

Tip: Add your own contact details at the top of this list. In urgent situations, people might forget or not have your number. Having your info upfront ensures they can quickly get in touch with you or provide others with your details. 

Take Care of Your Back

A back injury might prevent you from caring for your loved one. Make it a habit to stretch regularly. Consider investing in tools or equipment that can aid in lifting or moving others. If unsure about what’s best, seek advice from physical or occupational therapists. 

Stay Organized 

Caring from the heart also involves paperwork. Jot down important details, whether on paper or digitally. Remember dates and specifics of events. Always have updated medication lists for both of you, clearly marked to avoid confusion. A summary sheet with key information can be handy for medical visits. 

Practice Forgiveness

Illness can cause stress, leading to sharp words or tense moments. Understand that it’s the situation, not the person. Let go of grudges to maintain a healthy relationship. 

Prioritize Self-Care

Spend time on activities you love, whether it’s reading, meditating, or taking a short nap. Caregiving is rewarding but can be draining. Research indicates that caregiving can be both physically and mentally taxing. If you have health challenges, caregiving adds another layer of complexity. 

Take Needed Breaks

When overwhelmed, pause. Whether it’s a few moments, hours, or a day, take time to refresh and gain perspective. 

Don’t Hesitate to Seek Help

Lean on friends or family when needed. Those assisting don’t need to know everything – sometimes just a chat or an extra hand for the night can make a difference. 

Consider Respite Care Options

Numerous facilities provide inpatient respite care for those unable to care for themselves. Speak to your medical team and insurance company for recommendations. 

Delegate Tasks

If possible, hire help for tasks like cooking or cleaning. If not, many community programs offer assistance with meals, housekeeping, and pet care. A quick online search or chat with your health care team can lead you to these resources. 

Local teenagers can be a great help. They’re often eager to earn money and can assist with tasks like food prep or cleaning. 

Connect with Fellow Parents

Many have offered me an extra plate of their dinner. Their support has been invaluable in my caregiving journey. 

Remember, delegating frees you up for more critical tasks, benefiting both your health and the well-being of your loved one. 

Create a Support Network

Numerous support groups, both offline and online, cater to various needs — be it chronic illness, RA, caregiving, or more. Joining one can offer a sense of community and reassurance that you’re not facing your challenges alone. 

Be a More Proactive Patient with ArthritisPower

ArthritisPower is a patient-led, patient-centered research registry for joint, bone, and inflammatory skin conditions. You can participate in voluntary research studies about your health conditions and use the app to track your symptoms, disease activity, and medications — and share with your doctor. Learn more and sign up here.

  • Was This Helpful?