Helpful tips for caregivers
Caregivers often find themselves facing a series of unique responsibilities, many of which are unfamiliar, challenging and intimidating. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like you’re fighting to keep your head above water.
Despite the challenges, caregiving can be rewarding. And there are many things you can try to help make the caregiving process easier on yourself and your loved one. Caring for someone else is an act of love and kindness, and it often brings many challenges and rewards. Many caregivers are informal caregivers, which means they provide care without receiving any formal training.
Keep in mind: Informal caregivers may be caring for others in many different circumstances— a handicapped spouse, an aging parent or an ill child.
They may not be equipped to carry out their caregiving responsibilities, nor have they anticipated being in this situation.
If you’re a caregiver, take a moment to reflect on the challenges and rewards
you’ve experienced. What challenges and rewards have you experienced as a caregiver?
Don’t try to do it alone
Asking for help may be difficult. However, even if you’re the primary caregiver, you shouldn’t try to do everything on your own. When asking for help, try to practice these tips:
• Remember: Many times, people want to help. In some cases, they just don’t know how. It’s important to point out specific jobs they may be best at helping with—especially those who live far away.
• Be clear about what you need—and when you need it. Review the list of tasks you need help with one-on-one with the helper. Clearly ask the person if they are able to help, and if so, in what ways.
• Be open to accepting help. This may require you to give up some control and be open to the way other people do things. Part of putting together a plan includes a list of all the tasks the you need help with. Look at that list and see what tasks the person who is offering to help is able to do.
• Be appreciative. Thank the person who is helping on behalf of yourself and the care recipient.1
Take care of yourself
When you’re busy taking care of someone else, it’s easy to put your own health and personal needs on the back burner. It’s important to take care of your emotional, physical and social needs.
Here are some ideas for taking care of your emotional needs:
• Relax in your own personal space. Try to create a personal space in your home or close by. This is a place where you can go to decompress and do things that you enjoy—like write, read, pray or paint.
• Find an outlet for your emotions.
What ways do you enjoy to maintain your emotional health?
Here are some ideas for taking care of your physical needs:
• Stay active and eat a healthy diet. Both of these can help keep your body—and mind— feeling its best.
• Try to get enough sleep. Sleep helps you feel energized to tackle the day’s challenges.
• Have regular checkups. Keep up with regular screenings and vaccinations, as well as taking medicines your healthcare provider has prescribed.
How can you stay active while being a caregiver? Or how have you seen others stay active with caregiving?
Here are some ideas for taking care of your social needs:
• Don’t stop doing things you enjoy. Continue doing the activities that are important to you.
• Find others with similar struggles. This can help remind you that you aren’t alone and provide the opportunity to give and receive support.1
What social activities do you enjoy to stay connected to others?
Focus on the positives
Many aspects of caregiving are outside of your control, but you can control your attitude. These tips may help you stay upbeat and optimistic:
• Find the silver lining. Think about how caregiving has made you stronger or how it’s helped strengthen your relationship with your loved one.
• Try to keep a sense of humor.
• Be grateful for the time you have together. Remember that the time you’re able to spend with your loved one now is something that you’ll treasure for the rest of your life.
• Find activities you can do together. Gardening, going for a walk, visiting with a neighbor, looking at family photos, putting out bird feeders, playing cards and board games, having a movie date (complete with popcorn and friends), or cooking together can all be good options.2
What are you feeling grateful for today?
Find the resources you need
In most communities, there are services available to help caregivers. That might include respite care, which allows you to take a few hours or a few days away from caregiving. See if support groups are available in your community. You can search online, ask your doctor or local hospital, or call the local chapter of various organizations (like the Alzheimer’s Association or the American Cancer Society).
Other resources and services may include:
• Adult day care facilities
• Home health aides
• Meal delivery services
To find out if these services are available in your area, contact your local Area Agency on Aging. If members of your family have affiliations with any organizations, like the Elks, Eagles, or Moose lodges, they may be able to offer assistance as well. U.S. veterans may also be eligible to receive support. Check with the individual organization to find out more.