Caring for Yourself as You Care for Your Dying Loved One

By Laura Herman, Dementia and Eldercare Professional

Caregiving can be incredibly demanding, and the emotional toll of grieving for a dying loved one is heavy. Doing both simultaneously can quickly drain your energy reserves at a time when you need it most.

It can seem easy to take care of oneself, at least on paper. It’s the dedication and commitment that can be difficult. When taking on the role of caregiver for a dying loved one, commit to becoming your own caregiver as well.

Create a Care Team for Yourself

Many care teams are built with the patient’s needs in mind–but don’t think you are being left by the wayside. You have the ability to create your own care team, a secondary group of individuals that can support you directly during the ups and downs of caregiving and help prevent caregiver fatigue.

You may wonder, “How can my team care for me?” Your team can keep an eye on your health, support your well-being, and ensure you’re taking care of yourself enough to keep at your best. They may include people like the following:

  • Your loved one’s hospice team can educate, reassure you in real time, calm your concerns, and boost your confidence.
  • Respite caregivers give you the opportunity to see to your own needs.
  • Your doctor or health care providers provide valuable advice on your health so you can give your all.
  • Good friends can help listen, lend a hand with tasks and errands, or make sure you’re getting out for your daily walk or weekly coffee dates as planned.
  • Therapists, grief counselors, or grief coaches can offer guidance as you explore your feelings, recognize your grief, process the past, look to the future, and navigate the situation in a healthy manner.
  • A spiritual leader or interfaith chaplain can offer a kind ear, wisdom, and perspective during this tough yet sacred situation.

Ask for Help

Many people find asking for help to be difficult. Even just figuring out what you need in order to ask for it can be a challenge when you’re caregiving for a dying loved one.

When asking for caregiver help, think about everything you’re doing and be as specific as possible about how people can step in.

Some examples of what people can do to help:

  • Bring a casserole
  • Take your loved one to an appointment
  • Provide respite care for an afternoon
  • Go grocery shopping
  • Help with errands
  • Listen to you vent your feelings
  • Handle communication updates with the group
  • Go with you for a daily walk

You can prioritize your tasks and plan when you need help with an online care calendar and coordination platform like Lotsa Helping Hands or CaringBridge. These platforms can assist you in with posting specific times and days you need help, in addition to streamlining communication with your group.

If there are some logistical issues that can’t be fixed with simply more people, speak to your loved one’s social worker. They are also part of the hospice team and can help you sort out exactly what you need or who you can ask for what.

However, if you feel as though you are unable to ask for help, seek some guidance from a therapist. Talking with a therapist can give you the opportunity to explore some of the reasons you find asking for help to be so hard, and see if you can use this opportunity to practice doing so.

Realize the Importance of Respite

Even if you don’t want to miss a minute with your loved one, breaks are vital for you to take care of your needs. This is especially true for those who are caring full time or over a prolonged period who are at high risk for caregiver burnout.

Schedule regular respite periods in a way that makes sense in your situation.

This could include anything that fits your needs, for example:

  • a half-hour each day for you to take a walk or nap
  • three afternoons a week for you to go to yoga class
  • a few hours every other week so you can go to a faith service or therapy appointment and out to lunch
  • an hour each evening so you can relax in a bubble bath

Decide who might make a good respite caregiver.

While sometimes you may need someone to simply provide a second pair of eyes on a loved one, different situations can call for different kinds of caregivers. Make sure to keep that in mind, but don’t be afraid to ask for help and be upfront with your needs.

  • Consider friends, family members, neighbors, or members of a faith community.
  • Hire a home care aide through an agency.
  • Ask the hospice team for suggestions.
  • Talk to your local Area Agency on Aging to connect with local volunteers or resources that can help.

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  2. Morrow, Angela. “DABDA: The 5 Stages of Coping With Death.” Very Well Health, 20 February 2022,
  3. Morrow, Angela. “The Four Phases and Tasks of Grief.” Very Well Health, 23 February 2020,
  4. Smith, Melinda, Robinson, Lawrence, and Segal, Jeanne. “Coping with Grief and Loss.” HelpGuide, October 2021,