Caregiver Self Care: Your Emotional Health

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Military Caregiving: Emotional Self Care

A Caregiver’s emotional health is very important. Chronic stress that doesn’t go away can lead to health problems. There are many different tools that can help you achieve balance in your life, with time to relax, enjoy relationships, work and have fun.

Let’s talk about things Caregivers can do to maintain their emotional health. First, ask for help. Reach out to social contacts. Get some respite from the day-to-day stress and seek out support groups.

Ask For Help

Sometimes Caregivers have a difficult time saying they need help. They’re expected to be, or expect themselves to be, the strong ones, taking care of others’ needs. But one of the best things a Caregiver can do to maintain emotional health is to ask for help.

There’s no shame in letting others know that you need assistance. A great place to start is in your faith community, your neighborhood or social groups where you already have a connection to others. Support might come in the form of direct help with care, or assistance with meals or chores around the house. Having supportive people in one’s life can make all the difference in an emergency.

Reach Out to Social Contacts

A five-minute break to touch base with a compassionate friend, relative or neighbor, even by phone, or e-mail can lift your spirits.

Caregiving can feel lonely and isolating. Keeping up social contacts helps a lot in staying well. Hearing the sound of others’ voices, reading their supportive words, or sharing thoughts with a kindred spirit requires only a short time in a busy caregiving day. Yet, this regular contact maintains your social support network.

Get Some Respite

Respite means having someone stand in for you so that you can take a break. Stepping away from caregiving for an hour or two, a full day or a week can help to relieve stress and restore your sense of well-being, when you know that the Veteran is in good hands during your absence.

The VA provides enhanced respite support for Veterans and their primary Caregivers enrolled in the new Caregiver program as part of the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. VA respite options include:

  • In-home respite, when someone comes into your home to provide caregiving for the Veteran while you are away.
  • Adult day programs, where the Veteran can participate in a full day of programs and socialize.
  • Out-of-home respite at the VAMC, VA Community Living Centers, or assisted living communities and community nursing homes.

Seek Out Support Groups

Your local VA Medical Center, churches, non-profit groups, community hospitals and other health care providers offer support groups specifically for Caregivers.

Support groups are safe havens for exploring and expressing grief, fear, guilt, anger and loss, joys and sharing coping skills. They are also great places to exchange caregiving resources. A social worker or other professional often leads the group.

Individual psychological counseling provides crucial support for some Caregivers. Many Caregivers find the combination of attending a support group and getting private counseling helps a lot in managing stress.

In the Program of Comprehensive Assistance, primary and secondary Family Caregivers will be eligible to participate in individual and group therapy, counseling and peer support groups offered at the VA Medical Center. The counseling provided for the Family Caregiver is independent and not connected to the Veteran’s care.

Posted on BrainLine June 5, 2017.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), VA Caregiver Support: Caring for those Who Care: