Northwestern Mutual


Don’t neglect your own health and well-being.

Providing care for a loved one in need isn’t something most of us plan for, yet it is one of the most loving and selfless acts we can do. At the same time, caregiving can affect you emotionally and physically.

How can you provide care to a loved one without sacrificing your own health and happiness? Consider these tips, adapted from

47 percent of working caregivers indicate an increase in caregiving expenses has caused them to use up all savings
  • Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s illness or injury and his or her specific needs. The more you know, the less uncertainty and stress you may feel about providing care and the more effective you will be.
  • Remember that caregiving is a team effort that includes other family members, friends, community members and health care providers. If you are the primary caregiver, make a list of ways others can help you, and then let team members choose what they would like to do.
  • Know your limits. There may be physical tasks that you’re unable or unwilling to provide. If needed, consider professional and volunteer services to help with these activities. Some community agencies can help you with professional home care, home-delivered meals, transportation assistance, skilled nursing and respite care. Your local hospital may be a good place to ask about getting the help you need.
  • Encourage independence. Make sure your loved one has a central role in discussions and decisions about his or her care, if possible. It’s important for that person to have a sense of control. Be open to strategies and technologies that may enable your family member to be as independent as he or she can for as long as possible.
  • Get connected. There are many organizations that help you become more comfortable in your role. For example, your local hospital, the Red Cross and the Alzheimer’s Association offer classes on caregiving and/or the specific health challenge your loved one is facing. Also, consider joining a support group. Talking with people who are in a similar situation can give you new ideas and strategies for caregiving, provide important encouragement and help you to feel that you’re not alone. And don’t forget to stay emotionally connected to family and friends. Set aside a certain time each week to socialize, even if it’s just to have a cup of coffee or take a quick walk.
  • Advocate for yourself. Be realistic about how much of your time and energy you can give. Set clear limits, and communicate them to doctors, family members and others helping to provide care. Don’t put your own health on the back burner. Take time each day to exercise, eat well, sleep properly, and do something that helps you de-stress and feed your soul. Be sure to keep up with your own health care needs: see your own doctor and dentist regularly, and don’t forget to take your own prescription medications or other therapies. As a caregiver, you want to take do everything you can to preserve your own health and well-being.

Most important, be gentle with yourself and your own feelings. Feelings of anger, fear or resentment don’t mean that you don’t love your family member; they simply mean that you’re trying to do the best you can under difficult circumstances.

To learn more, visit Caregiving Support & Help at

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