What’s the first rule in an emergency on a plane? Put on your oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Caring for yourself is one of the most important—and one of the most often forgotten—things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.
Many times personal beliefs and attitudes get in the way of taking care of yourself. We have to break down barriers and past habits to place ourselves first in caring for our loved ones. The first task is to identify what prevents you from caring for yourself. Do you believe that you are being selfish? Do you have trouble asking for help or what you need? Do you think that you have something to prove to the loved one (or others)? Time (or lack thereof) will always be a factor, but you must set a priority of taking care of yourself.
Misconceptions will cause a caregiver to forgo caring for themselves. For example, they might believe that if they don’t provide the care, no one else will. Some might believe that they are responsible for their parents’ health. Possibly, they’ve made a promise to take care of mom to dad. Often it is negative talk that needs to be changed to positive. Instead of, “I can’t quit work to be with mom all day.” Try, “I can visit mom after work.”
Ask yourself what might be getting in your way and keeping you from taking care of yourself. Or if you know someone who is a caregiver, express care and concern about their well-being; your inquiry might be what they need.