Make Self-Care Part of Your Caregiving Plan

by Mike Collins


“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” —J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit”


For many of us, there has never been and never will be a dragon in our personal lives like caregiving. While the activity can be a wonderful experience of love, caring and giving, it can also be a fiery dragon of stress, blame and exhaustion. Caregiving calculations, as Tolkien called them, should include three plans—a doctor’s plan of care, caregiving plan and caregiver plan— and too many caregivers only consider the first two.

The doctor’s plan of care for your loved one focuses on the medical issues your loved one is experiencing. The caregiving plan addresses mostly non-medical issues, such as updating an emergency kit, with an advance directive, living will or standard will, healthcare/financial power of attorney, insurance and other financial documents.

Most caregivers do a reasonable job of understanding the first two plans. However, what about the plan for you as the caregiver? This is the calculation most caregivers overlook.

Here are 10 areas of self-care to include in your plan:

  1. Rest: Fatigue makes us more susceptible to mistakes, shortens our patience, lowers our immunity levels, scrambles our thinking skills and hinders communications. Sleep or nap whenever possible, and ask family/friends/professional caregivers to visit or stay with your loved one, so you can sleep.
  2. Hydration: Research shows that if your hydration levels drop by 2-3 percent, your simple math skills are affected. Many of the ills caused by fatigue can also be connected to lack of hydration. Drink more water!
  3. Food: Caregivers who don’t keep themselves sufficiently nourished don’t have the energy to meet their responsibilities. Keep a bowl of fruit handy and grab a piece or slice whenever possible.
  4. Exercise: If you aren’t reasonably fit, you are putting yourself at risk for a wide range of injuries. Walk on a regular basis, and use some stretch bands or dumbbells. Water exercise, as we age, is even better.
  5. Fun: If you have any interest in moving through your caregiver experience and maintaining your sanity, you must find times to relax and have some fun. What do you like to do that is easy, inexpensive and close? Fun, especially laughter, recharges our minds and hearts.
  6. Say “No”: Many caregivers believe they have to do it all. Practice saying the word, “No.” Strengthening your “No” muscles allows you to maintain some balance in life.
  7. Connect: Reach out to family and friends, and maintain those contacts who mean so much to you. Friendships keep you sane.
  8. Relax: A few minutes of relaxing activities, such as meditation, walking at a relaxed pace or focused breathing can help you maintain both a positive mindset and energy level.
  9. Help: Do not be afraid to ask for help. Seeking help does not show weakness. In fact, asking for help makes you stronger because it helps you understand that you are not in this challenge by yourself
  10. Spirituality: Whatever your beliefs may be, whether it is prayer, meditation or a walk in the woods, all can help you connect with a source that can raise your spirits and energy, and lighten your burden.


Collins is the producer of the video, “Care for the Caregiver,” winner of a National Caregiver Friendly Award. For more caregiving tips, visit 

©2017 Mike Collins