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Home » Helpful Resources » Support » Care for the Caregiver

Self-Care for the Caregiver

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of individuals with psychiatric disorders

Tips for long-term caregivers

The caregivers of family members have undertaken a journey that they never expected.  In order to provide an appropriate level of care for their loved one, for now and far into the future, the caregiver must also take care of themselves.  Such care may run counter to the temptation to go all out in an effort to provide every possible help for the loved one.  However, because family support and involvement are crucial, the caregiver must stay in good health for a successful recovery.  No one situation fits everyone.  Each person’s plan should be tailored to fit the individual situation and resources.  Here are a few tips below to help you plan a healthy future.

  • Involvement in activities that have nothing to do with mental illness

  • Finding meaningful work away from the home

  • Maintain a normal lifestyle

  • Maintain a life of one’s own

  • Share experiences and feelings in a family support group

  • Create a greater balance in one’s life

  • Achieve and maintain physical fitness, regular exercise and good nutrition

  • Acknowledge that you are not the only one who can make a difference

  • Be able to feel the pain, work through it, and become open to other feelings

  • Get support learning to live with the stress that setting limits may cause

  • Advocate for the services the family member with a psychiatric disorder needs

  • Accept the need to change the mental health system

  • Become active in changing the mental health system

  • Know when to say no

  • Help, encourage, and challenge your loved one in their growth

  • Know your limits and do not wait until you are pushed over the edge

  • Focusing on what is possible

  • Distance yourself from behaviors that you cannot or should not be trying to change

  • Pay attention to the lives of other family members

  • Know that structure can communicate caring

  • Take one step at a time as the way to attain a long term goal

  • Accept that whatever one is doing is the best that one can do at this time

  • Involvement in a group or process that supports the exploration and deepening of one’s beliefs and values

  • Identify options before making a decision

  • Schedule time with friends

  • Celebrate small victories

  • Maintain a realistic hope, setbacks are part of the recovery process

  • Structure and plan to maintain a regular and unstressed schedule

  • Knowledge is power, become educated on everything involved, especially NAMI Family to Family

  • Focus on wellness, recovery and hope to create a positive atmosphere for all


(adapted from Spaniol, L (1987).  Coping strategies of family caregivers.  In A.B. Hatfield & H.P. Lefley (Eds.), Families of the mentally ill: Coping and adaptation.  New York: The Guilford Press.)


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