How to take care of yourself when caring for another: Supporting a loved one through end of life care

Supporting a loved one, whether family or friend, during their end of life care can be the most difficult, but also the most generous of gifts a person can give. In order to provide our loved ones with the emotional and physical support they need however, we also need to take time, reflect and look after ourselves as well.

During this time many care or support givers put their own needs and emotions aside as they prioritise their focus on the person who is unwell and downplay the huge physical and emotional toll this may be having on themselves. The stress and burnout this can create can be significant, especially when caring for others over a long period.

It is common for us to begin our grief and loss journey before a loved one has passed away, so be kind to yourself. This can happen cumulatively and over the course of time as we encounter changes in roles, relationships and another’s dependence on us, as we let go of hopes and dreams and experiences we may never get the chance to share with or witness the individual enjoying, and as we observe our loved one’s health deteriorating.

Importantly, we must make time for ourselves:

  • Relax: Make having some down-time and relaxing a priority and part of your own self-care to strengthen your emotional well-being when taking on a role of caring for or supporting another. This may be in the form of listening to music, reading a book, going for a walk, using your hands and getting creative, or even watching a TV show you enjoy. Although doing something relaxing for yourself may take as little as 10 minutes, we can forget to prioritise this daily when we are preoccupied with a loved one’s well-being.
  • Stay connected: Give yourself permission to stay connected with your own social support whether that be friends, family, partner, or combination of all three. This may not always be straight forward, so compromising and finding new, different or easier ways of keeping in touch with family and friends will be paramount. Remember to not feel so obliged to other people that your catch ups add more stress to your already full stress-bucket. By slightly changing the way we catch up with and communicate with our friends and family, we can stay connected and access that social support we may need, whilst putting in small boundaries and not over-committing ourselves during a time that may already feel overwhelming
  • It’s OK to ask for help: You do not have to do this on your own, and support is out there. All you have to do is ask for help from family, friends, the hospice, hospitals or private counsellors or psychologists. Educate yourself with the support that is out there and don’t be afraid to put your hand up if you need to take it. You may like to write a list of things others can do for you, both big and small and allow others to help with things like making appointments, helping with groceries, cooking a meal etc. Quite often others would love to help out in some way, but may not know how to. Joining a support group may also be helpful and you can often choose what sort of medium you may want to participate through, whether this be in person, over the phone, or online.

Strive to be as kind and as gentle towards yourself as you would to others during this time.

If you feel like you or someone you love would be interested in finding out more about the support we can offer at Attuned, please call our receptionist on 8361 7008 or email [email protected]

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