New caregivers don’t generally have the resources or support system in place and many are thrust into this role rather quickly without adequate time to prepare. We offer a few tips that can help you get started.
1) Understand your care recipient. If you’re caring for a family member you might find that tip rather silly. In truth, however, knowing a person as your mother or father is a bit different than knowing them as a care recipient. Your mom or dad may not initially care for the role reversal, for example. It’s important to get to know them through a more critical eye and notice the changes they are going through. Take time to talk with family members to learn more about the changes they’ve seen, their favorite hobbies or movies, essentially anything that would help you know them better. It’s also important to review their medical history to the degree it is available. By learning these simple, but valuable pieces of information, you will be in a better position to identify future changes in behavior or physical condition.
2) Talk with your loved one about his or her finances and health care wishes. For your peace of mind and theirs, consider a Durable Power of Attorney for finances and health care. This planning can help reduce your immediate anxiety and better prepare your family for the future.
3) Invite family and close friends to be involved in your loved one’s care. Caregiving can be exhausting at times particularly if you have many other obligations. Make a list of all the tasks that are required as caregiver along with things such as driving mom to the doctor or the pharmacy. Ask everyone to consider what they are willing and able to do to assist with care. Avoid the urge to feel you can manage this alone as you’ll soon find out that you can’t do so while taking proper care of yourself.
4) Identify community resources and programs. Meals on Wheels, Senior Programs and others can be very valuable services. Medical alert services allow you the freedom to be away while still ensuring that your loved one has access to medical care should an emergency arise. Life simply can’t be suddenly placed on hold so find local programs to allow you to lead a balanced life.
5) Find support for yourself. Caregivers often feel isolated as they take on more responsibility, and as their social lives move into the background. You may find a local support group or one online; groups that can help you muddle your way through the challenges you are facing. Don’t feel you need to go it alone! Ask for help, as stated before, from friends, family, community programs and others you may find. Take care of yourself or you’ll have little to give to the one who is in need at this time.