As we get older, so do our significant others and our parents. Caring for an aging parent or a loved one who is ill or disabled is often deeply rewarding. However, it can also consume a lot of time, as well as physical and emotional energy.

According to Caregiver Action Network, more than 65 million people, or 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.

At times, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by home, work, other family needs, and care giving. That is why is it important to take care of yourself before your own health is affected. Here are some tips to care for yourself while also caring for a loved one.

  • 1

    Recruit Help

    We don't have to do it all on our own.  Sometimes it is best to have more than one person involved in care giving. Whether it's accompanying your loved one to appointments, helping with housework, or cooking dinner one night a week, ask other family members to lend a hand. If someone asks if he or she can pitch in, its okay to say yes.

  • 2

    Put an End to the Guilt

    At times, it’s easy to feel like there's something more we should be doing, or something we should have done differently. Rather than focus on what could or should be,we need to give ourselves credit for all that we do. If feelings of guilt are especially strong, it can help to talk them over with a counselor or social worker.

  • 3

    Stay Active

    Taking time out of the day to exercise can deliver proven health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and it can be a powerful energy and mood-lifter and stress reliever too.  Even if it’s just one day a week, some exercise is always better than none.

  • 4

    Stay Connected

    It’s easy to get disconnected from the world while taking care of a loved one.  That why it’s important to catch up with friends by phone or email, or plan weekly walks or a regular lunch or movie. Ask people to drop by and visit  the person you're helping, so that you can take a break and feel connected with the world outside your care giving role.

  • 5

    Relax and Enjoy Yourself

    It’s vital to make time for yourself.  Listen to music, take a luxurious bath, dabble in creative pastimes, or even splurge on a massage. It also could help to learn meditation or other relaxation techniques through a class, video, or book.

  • 6

    Get Enough Sleep

    Get plenty of sleep. The average person should get seven to eight hours of sleep per night to fully function. You need to think clearly and have energy for yourself and the person you are assisting.