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How to set boundaries as a caregiver

Caregiving is a full-time responsibility for a number of people. The demands can be physical, emotional and financial and can lead to burnout, stress and fatigue.

October 09, 2018

How to set boundaries as a caregiver

As you care for your loved one, you can’t forget to also care for yourself. It is essential that you set boundaries for yourself, to ensure that you are providing the best care possible without neglecting your own personal health.

What you can do is different from what you should do

You know the feeling. That sense of obligation when someone asks you to do something. The feeling that you can’t say no, whether you want to or not.

When you receive a request, think less about what you should do and more about what you can do. Stretching yourself too thin can do more harm than good, regardless of whether the task is completed or not. If you determine you can’t do what is being asked of you, consider alternatives or other things you could do to help, even if it is less than what is being demanded.

It can be hard to say no, but agreeing to unreasonable requests can set a bad precedent.

Don’t neglect your own personal needs

By definition, boundaries are a dividing line. As the lines between your life and the life of the person you’re caring for begin to blur, it is important to prioritize your own time and space. Rather than waiting for free time, block off “me time” in advance on your schedule.

This time can be spent alone or doing something you love, from reading a book or spending time outdoors to coffee with a friend or a yoga session. Taking time to recharge your batteries is critical to your own mental and emotional health.

This will also help your loved one feel like less of a burden to you.

Maintain realistic expectations about your loved one

The specifics of your loved one’s personal health will dictate the impact of this, but you need to remember to keep your expectations in check in terms of your loved one’s attitude or behavior.

They may not vocalize their appreciation for your care. They may be prone to bouts of irritability or reclusion, with no interest in whatever activities you may have planned. Your loved one may also have a health condition that causes physical pain or affects their emotions.

To account for this, make sure you are well rested so that you are not irritable from a lack of sleep, as your patience during these difficult situations may wear thin. It is also important to take whatever negative comments they may make to or about you with a grain of salt. It may not be easy, but you can’t take it personally. It’s better to be able to grasp the root cause.