Stop telling me to take care of myself.

criticizing caregivers

Self care — it’s easier said than done.

We’re always being told we should take better care of ourselves, but we rarely get the help we need to actually do that. Here’s how caregivers feel when they’re told they should put their oxygen mask on first:

Sometimes it feels like another criticism thrown at us. Yes, self-care. How dreamy that vision is. How easy that is for others to tell us that is what we need when we are already acutely aware of it. What I really think I would love to have and what I really think would be the most “self care” mindset…is having or knowing that someone ELSE is going to take care of me for a few minutes, even maybe take care of a task, or take one of my responsibilities off my hands for a little while. – Cathy S.F.

We all know we need to take care of ourselves. This is not news to us as caregivers yet everyone who offers this advice to us can’t seem to offer how to do that when the choice we have is “take care of me or take care of our loved one”. I’m going to choose my loved one every time. I think most of us are in the position that if it isn’t ME providing the necessary care, it’s NO ONE providing it and that is just not an option for our loved ones who require total care etc. We do our best to care for ourselves but it’s literally impossible to take time away from our loved one to do so…It’s not noble or martyrdom, it’s just reality, a fact of our lives. So we do our best each day, listen to the unhelpful “advice” from people who will never “get it” until they are in the same position, and continue to find moments in our busy days for our little and glorious bits of self care (while still taking the best care possible of our loved ones 24/7). – Kelly D.

Taking care of myself is looking for the best options and making sure my loved one is safe so I can sleep at night. Trusting others to help and care while looking for what other options are out there to help. The closest family is 10 hours away, so no family meetings or help. I don’t have the answers but I will continue to fight and learn. I am not trying to be noble, I just want what is best so I can sleep. – Julie D.

The suggestions are simply not doable for a lot of us – especially when you ARE the only living family member left, when you are already suffering from a debilitating illness yourself, when you can’t even take a walk around the block because there is no one to sit with your bedridden family member who cannot help themself and constantly has emergencies, etc. Way to put more unrealistic pressure on us that we must be doing it all wrong. It is what it is! – Lemia L.

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About author

Jonah Okun

Jonah served as our Operations Director for two years. He holds a degree in Comparative Digital Communications and Happiness Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His intrigue in promoting well-being through new digital platforms pairs perfectly with the organizations goal of making online support for caregivers a reality. Prior to his time at The Caregiver Space, he spent seven years as a professional chef, baker and restaurant manager. He now happily resides in Brooklyn, New York.


  1. Lauren 21 December, 2015 at 14:55 Reply

    Thank you for saying what I want to scream ! I have had to postpone a surgery for myself ( that really is needed ) for the 2nd time. Why? Because we can not afford to pay someone to come and help my husband while I heal. No bending or lifting for 3 weeks after surgery. Hubby is in a wheelchair 24/7 , except when I put in bed and out in the am. If I hear one more person say ” Oh doesn’t your insurance cover that? ” NO IT DOES NOT! And after that the next question which I think makes me even more upset is ” Well doesn’t your county or social services offer some sort of program or support ?” YES it does, but we make to much money to qualify for anything. On paper we do, but each week we are deeper in the hole.So if one more person says ” you need to take care of you” You might see me on the evening news that night, lol.

  2. benazeman 21 December, 2015 at 18:55 Reply

    Well said! Self-care should not just be another item on our overcrowded “to-do” list.

    I’m part of an online community of anti-violence activists who are trying to prioritize self-care: join us on Facebook if you like, at Be ready to let admins know what kind of advocacy you do, if it’s not already obvious on your profile.

    Again, thanks for the helpful article!

  3. diana 21 December, 2015 at 21:03 Reply

    Lauren: I’m so sorry you don’t have anybody to care for you after surgery. Have you thought about asking a local Church for volunteers? If I didn’t have my sister to help me out after surgery I wouldn’t have had anybody either. I’ve had 5 surgeries. My sister (she lives in another state) has been able to be with me to help me out; even though my husband “could” have done it. May God provide some people to be there for you!!!

  4. Margie 22 December, 2015 at 08:41 Reply

    You put into words what so many (all?) caregivers feel. When you are struggling to find your own oxygen, it doesn’t help to be coached to breath deeper. As if that is a cure.
    Even if you do manage to get a little “break,” a walk around the block does not give you your life back, which is what you really long for.
    What really surprised me was that even doctors don’t seem to get it. As a whole, they are dismissive and do little to address the stress of the caregiver.

  5. freedomrockspress 22 December, 2015 at 08:56 Reply

    This gave me a sarcastic chuckle this morning, thanks, I needed that. Here is the reality – Yes, I am very aware that I need to take care of me first. And as all human beings, I do the best I can. But my first duty is to ensure my daughter is taken care of. All the “Advice” and lip service from others, although well meaning, does nothing but remind me there are no current viable options. And yes, I look for options constantly, so just stop, it comes across as self righteous judgement. So, in the spirit of the holidays, reach out to a family with special needs and offer your time to do a task, make a store run, invite them over for a gathering, or simply visit and share a laugh or two. Peace!

  6. Joy Johnston 22 December, 2015 at 18:57 Reply

    People mean well but clearly there are many who are full-time caregivers with no support system, and finding time to “take care of self” is virtually impossible.

  7. Sujata Chapman 7 January, 2016 at 21:40 Reply

    @Joy, I wonder if there are caregivers who facing being housebound and have no family or much support system. Then it it tough to care of yourself. Thanks for being aware that full time care givers may received limited support.

  8. Brenda Mater 11 January, 2016 at 13:59 Reply

    Even though I have just found your website, I wholeheartedly agree with those who are caregivers that keep getting “you need to take care of yourself first”. I am my husbands caretaker with just a daughter that is close, but she has kids of her own and works full time, so she has little time to help. I do have an aide that comes in 3 times a week to give him a bath, but that is not enough! He has VA benefits, but does not cover everything. He can be very verbally abusive! I did get to go see my mother and family for a week before Thanksgiving, I really enjoyed it, but was not enough. I do not have any close friends that live close, we are out in the boonies. I really need time away from him but it really is not feasible. No one really understands the stress caretakers are under when they offer advise. Thank you for letting me vent.

  9. Debbie H. Watson 23 January, 2016 at 03:10 Reply

    I can’t even reap the benefits of marriage because my husband and I are going through being the only ones caring for our mothers. He has four sisters and I have two sisters but they are too busy enjoying their lives, to hell with ours! His mother is living with him and I am living thirty miles from him with my mother. I don’t really care to go any where much but a day or two to myself or with my husband would be great!

  10. Kathie Murphy 22 April, 2016 at 18:33 Reply

    24/7 care is exhausting(42years for my son)I have battled for caregivers and medical care facility help!!I thank GOD every day that I was able to secure extra help!I searched for6 years before I finally got help.Funds were cut and we thought he would lose all these. I took it to court and he still has his care! WE are their advocates and it’s our job to secure WHATEVER is needed for them and for US(as the full time caregiver!! I always say=GOD first,ME second or I couldn’t be here to do the24/7 care!

  11. Nancy 18 August, 2016 at 18:44 Reply

    To take care of myself, what I need is time alone and time with my husband in the evenings. I have always been a person needing time to myself to think through issues and to process emotions. Also, after our son married and moved 800 miles away for work, my husband and I had 12 years alone. This time was priceless in how close we became.

    My mother has been here for 10 months. Unfortunately, she is negative, critical and puts her nose in our business often. It is unbelievable to me how she has handled being here, when we have gone out of our way to accommodate her needs. I get very little help from my brothers and have handled 99 percent of mom’s health and financial business for the past six years.

    I really don’t know how I can “take care of myself” when what I need … I never or rarely receive. Plus, mom refuses to work with me in handling various situations and problems (ex: hiring a shower aide for once a week). I am concerned that in not getting my needs met, I will reach a point of making a tough decision to place mom in a nursing home.

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