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Caring for Yourself as a Caregiver with Mini-Breaks

By Cathy Franz | 02/15/2023

A caregiver taking a mini-break to journal.

Being a caregiver of an older adult with a chronic illness can be especially challenging. Trying to meet both their healthcare and safety needs can often take up most of a caregivers’ time.  Letting your loved ones’ care needs overshadow your own, however, can lead to resentment and impatience and can impact your own health.

How can caregivers step away from their caregiving role and still ensure supervision and safety? Enter the mini-break, a small bitesize rest period that provides time to step out of the caregiving role without leaving the one you care for to do so.

Mini-breaks can take anywhere from seconds to a few minutes, and allow the caregiver to release some tension and shift the focus to themselves.

What does a mini-break look like?

Here are a few examples to consider:

  • Close your eyes, breathe deeply, inhale expanding to fill your stomach and breathe out to release. Try for 90 seconds.
  • Try some gentle stretching.
  • If your loved one can be left alone, take a short walk outside. If not, take a lap around the inside of your home.
  • Find some solitude. Step out of the room for a few minutes to collect yourself. If you can’t leave, put on headphones to cancel noise for a few minutes.
  • Make a healthy snack.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Read a short article, a page from a book, an inspirational quote or poem.
  • Listen to uplifting music.
  • Doodle.
  • If you have a cat or dog, pet them.
  • Call a supportive friend and ask them to just listen.

Taking the time to care for yourself, even for a few minutes at a time throughout the day can help you to manage stress and maintain patience and overall health. If you are a caregiver and would like additional support and resources, the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging offers WeCare…Because You Do, a helpful phone-based program of care coordination and coaching program, which provides family caregivers with tools and supports to make each day feel doable.

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