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Tips for New Caregivers

For those who require caregivingevery story is unique and choices for care look different. Whether a family member is aging, or in need of emergency medical support, an available family member may be one of the first people to step into the role as a caregiver.  

November is National Family Caregiving Month, and I have personally taken on the role of a family caregiver as my mom battled an unexpected health emergency.  

Navigating the space of being both a family member and a caregiver has been a long journey. Throughout this experience, I have found some tips that are helpful to keep in mindwhether you require caregiving, are a family caregiver yourself, or know someone who is. 

1. Take Care of Your Own Health

Schedule time to take care of yourself. Often, I will create a dedicated time for self-care in my calendar. From my experience, if you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. The reason why this is so important is that if you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of others to the best of your ability. You should give others the best version of you, not less of you. 

2. Accept Help and Delegate 

Accepting or seeking help may be one of the hardest aspects of caregiving. While it may feel good to oversee everythingin reality, you can’t do it all. Remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, iis a sign of strength and can improve both the well being of yourself and the family member you are caring for. 

If you don’t have family or friends that are available to step in, you are not alone. Professional services are available and don’t make you any less of a caregiver to your loved one.

3. GET ORGANIZED 

Caregiving involves a high level of oversight and responsibility. It is not uncommon that a family caregiver may be juggling a loved one’s medical care while also fulfilling their daily needs such as meal preparation and bathing. A family caregiver may also oversee a loved one’s personal affairs as well. This could include housekeeping, pet care, financials, etc.  

It is easy to fall off track while trying to juggle a variety of tasks. To stay organized: 

  • Create a Game Plan: Take note of everything that your family member needs help with and ensure that if others are involved to provide help, that everyone knows what their designated responsibilities are. 
  • Organize Medical InformationIn the event of both short and long-term medical care, a hefty amount of paperwork is often involved. Organize important information in a three-ring binder or a folder in your computer to quickly access necessary information.

4. Communicate Effectively with Doctors and Medical Providers

A relationship built on communication and trust with your loved one’s medical provider(s) and doctors(s) icritical to cultivate. With effective communication, those responsible for medical attention can better understand the needs of the patient and you may also better understand the needs of your loved one. 

  • Remember to speak upYou can help provide your loved one with an improved care experience by advocating for them if they are not able to themselves.  
  • Keep track of symptoms: Provide examples or evidence of concerns prior to your visit.  
  • Do your research: Before each visit, be prepared and make a list of questions. 

5. Seek Support from Others

Whether you have the support of family, friends, professionals, or other caregivers; having a community iimportant. If friends or family are not able to directly help your loved one, remember that they can still support and help YOU – which can make the world of a difference. 

6. Watch Out for Signs of Anxiety or Depression 

If you find yourself or your loved one experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental illness – you aren’t alone. Don’t delay in seeking professional help If you or your loved one needs it. 

7. GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT

Being a family caregiver is no simple task and you are doing the best you can. Do you have caregiving tips you would add to this list? Share them in the comments.

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Photo credit: Dean Mitchell

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