Preparation can help you transition to caregiving
If you are new to the caregiving game, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. These tips can help you get the support you need while caring for someone you love in way that may benefit both of you:
Learn about the person’s medical condition or diagnosis. By learning more you will understand your loved one’s disease or condition and can be better able to care for them now and plan for the future. Also, set aside some time to acquaint yourself with their doctors, therapists, prescription drugs and insurance coverage. Ask to be kept up to date on all medical issues; your relative may need to sign a privacy release to enable their doctors to do this.
Seek out other caregivers. It helps to know you’re not alone. It’s comforting to give and receive support from others who have been there, done that and understand what you’re going through.
Talk about finances and health-care wishes. Having these conversations can be difficult, but they can help you carry out your loved one’s wishes and take care of their financial affairs should they no longer be able to do these things themselves. Invite family and close friends to come together and discuss the needed care. If possible, include the person needing care in this meeting. This meeting gives you a chance to explain what they need, plan for care and ask others for help. Even if you’re the primary family caregiver, you can’t do everything on your own, especially if you’re caregiving from a distance (more than an hour’s drive from your family member). You’ll need everyone—friends, siblings, and other family members, as well as health professionals—to pitch in.
Encourage your loved one’s independence. Caregiving doesn’t mean doing everything for your loved one. Be open to strategies that allow your family member to be as independent as possible.
Use community resources. Services such as Meals on Wheels, adult day programs, community transportation services and respite care may help relieve your workload. If your loved one is a member of an organization—a fraternity or sorority, the Links or the Elks—find out if the group offers support for long-time dues-paying members. Look for caregiver educational programs that will increase your knowledge and confidence.
Take care of yourself. Don’t ignore your own mental and physical health by putting your loved one’s needs first. Nearly half of all caregivers have reported that their health has gotten worse due to caregiving. Of those caregivers who say their health has declined, more than half report that declining health has made it harder to support their loved one. Stay social, do things you enjoy, exercise and take regular breaks.
Although caregiving can be a challenge, many people who are caregivers report a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and purpose.