Tips on Caring for the Caregiver

Caring for a loved one who has a chronic medical condition can often be filled with ups and downs, as you learn to take care of that person. But caring for the caregiver is also important! By knowing more, asking for help, and taking care of yourself, you can help your loved one live their fullest life possible at home.

Here are some tips for coping:

Keep good records.
Set up a notebook with important medical and insurance information and keep track of your loved one’s health status. See Be Prepared: Create a Medical and Emergency Information Folder for what to include and how to organize it.

Educate yourself.
Find out all you can about your loved one’s medical condition, so you will know what you can expect. Download a VNSNY Self-Care Guide, or ask your loved one’s doctor or home care nurse for resources.

Stay positive.
Caregiving is hard, but a light attitude and a sense of humor can get you through hard moments. Check out Experiencing the Psychological Benefits of Caregiving, Secrets of Successful Caregivers, and Practicing Mindfulness for other ways to lighten the mental load.

Develop a to-do list.
Have the list on hand when friends and family ask how they can help. If someone stops by, don’t be shy about asking for help with housework.

Take care of yourself.
Give yourself the time and tools to develop coping skills as you adjust to a new routine. Caregiver Wellness has articles to help you avoid guilt and manage stress, and see to your physical health with ways to eat right, exercise, and rest. See your doctor to maintain your own physical and emotional health.

Let others help you:

Find a support group.
Call your local hospital’s social worker for availability in your area, or check out websites for caregivers, like www.caregiving.org. Sign up for our free e-newsletter, Caring Delivered.

Encourage your loved one do as much as he or she can.
They may need to feel as independent as possible. Remember that caring for and doing for are different things, and be sure they have tasks they can do for themselves, like answering the phone.

Take care when lifting or moving your loved one.
One wrong turn could hurt both your loved one and yourself. Consider bringing in a certified home health aide who is trained in proper body mechanics.

Know your (and your loved one’s) rights.
Everyone over 65 is eligible for Medicare benefits that may cover home care. Ask your home care nurse or social worker about entitlements your family may qualify for. If those benefits are not enough, a licensed home care agency can offer additional help as needed.

When in doubt, trust your instincts.
Your loved one’s home care team are the medical experts, but as a caregiver you are the expert on your loved one, and an integral part of the care team. If you notice a change or if something seems “off,” mention it to the nurse. Your instincts will often lead you in the right direction.