How to Take Care of Yourself in a Crisis

Woman practicing yoga with ocean in background

If good self-care is tough for caregivers to manage, self-care during a loved one's medical crisis can feel downright impossible. The vending machine meals. The nights spend upright in an uncomfortable chair. The worry.

Obviously the focus is on the person in need. But that doesn't mean you have to ignore your own needs completely. Especially when a medical emergency or hospitalization is prolonged, you'll feel better -- and be more effective -- if you can muster a few basic self-care "survival" strategies.

What helps:

  • Clean up in the bathroom. If you spend the night in the hospital, bring a towel and shampoo to the family bathroom in the mornings so you can clean up. Take a shower, if one is available. Even a quick refresher will recharge you for the new day.

  • Skip the sodas. Start your day with strong coffee, if you like, but switch to tea and water for the remainder of the day. Soda doesn't do anything for you nutritionally and leaves you feeling bloated and sluggish.

  • Create alternate routines. Try taking the stairs or parking farther away. Walk around the hospital floor if you're nervous about going far away. Take standing and stretching breaks while you're sitting bedside.

  • Don't try to do too much at once. Make one or two healthful change-ups a day: Stop to pick up some good food (even a ready-to-go meal from a grocery store) rather than fast food. Swap a vending machine snack for some fruit from home.


over 2 years ago, said...

My mother is in a nursing home and took a really bad fall, due to not using her walker. Was in ICU two days and regular room one day. I am the only one who helps her. I have two siblings, who have seen her once in past two years although they only live a hour away, and two daughters who have seen her twice. They are 1-2 hrs away. After reading the article about taking care of yourself it dawned on me: Not once during mom's stay in the hospital did my children or siblings ask me how was I doing, how was I holding up, can I help. The only ones who showed compassion were the Drs, nurses, interns, and students in the hospital. Everyone there who saw my mom, thought to ask me how was I doing. That's never happened before. My response was always, I'm fine, or I'm better than she is. It was greatly appreciated to be shown concern by the hospital staff. And they always asked if they could get me anything. Oh, one daughter wanted to know how the lady I work for was doing! Nice! We are back in the nursing home now, so it is still just me. But I'm not complaining, just venting. It is what it is, and I can deal with it - one day at a time.


over 3 years ago, said...

These are very good tips for the person that is having to be at the hospital (which everyone needs to have someone at the hospital with them). When my husband was alive, after his stroke, I made sure that I kept a change of clothes in my car, and spare medication, just in case I was there more than a day. I got used to eating meals when I had a chance. Remember, if your loved one is sleeping, you can step away for a few minutes to get a breath of fresh air, or a quick bite to eat, as long as they are stable. I keep a kindle fully charged, and a charger in my purse as well, the kindle has different books, and my scriptures on it, so all bases are covered - it's one of the wifi 3G ones, so if I need to find a new book, I can. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes, and have layers to put on/remove as needed.


over 3 years ago, said...

This is an ongoing story. My brother has control of my mothers finances. His work takes him all over the country and the time between his contracts is unknown. Our mother (age 96) is blind, has dementia and getting worse, cannot get to tbe bathroom on her own just about helpless. It is wearing me out. I am retired plus I do not want to give up my part time job. I want to place mom in a facility but my brother refuses to apply for medicaide. He now is between contracts and cannot afford to pay for the aides during the week. I pay for one week night and I am there Sat to Mon am. I cannot stay more days. My husband just belittles me saying I let my brother get away with it. My mothers home has a mortgage and is in her and my brothers name.


over 3 years ago, said...

How do you take care of yourself if you are in the hospital and there is no one else?


over 4 years ago, said...

I have a friend ,who is a nurse and was taking care of my stepmother and she burned out, my stepmother has onset dementia.


over 4 years ago, said...

Have you ever had the times when you learned something new, and it made you feel great to know there was more out there? I believe I had that type of energy come into my life when I was younger. I miss it! I love the surprise of learning more than I did before.


over 4 years ago, said...

I am reading good books that boost my self confidence. Humor boosts your spiirit with a smile or laugh out loud. Subtle humor is even better, it catches you off guard and gives you a lift.


over 4 years ago, said...

Most of what is said here, I knew. The part about not being too quick to do too much at once is a practical suggestion. We can be overwhelmed with sadness regarding a death and try to pull in too much at once, making things worse. Moderation is the key.


over 4 years ago, said...

Practical thank you


over 4 years ago, said...

The specificity of the suggestions instead of generalities like "take care of yourself".


over 4 years ago, said...

Been there, tried to do that - and though difficult it is well worth the effort. You end up feeling a little more energized and positive in what can be a very difficult situation. Not always possible, be kind to yourself, but any of the above suggestions helps a bit, and your loved one can worry a little less about what this is all doing to you.


over 4 years ago, said...

We should never forget how inportant our own well being is to both of us.


over 4 years ago, said...

I bring a CD player and play relaxation tapes. It's good for the patient and good for the caregiver too.


over 4 years ago, said...

A reminder to take care of yourself too.