Maybe it started slowly. You visited your parents and began to worry about them living alone. You found yourself taking over more of the responsibilities for your spouse.
Maybe it happened all of a sudden. Mom slipped and broke her hip. The neighbors called to say that dad was wandering around looking lost.
However it began, you are now a family caregiver. And you are not alone – there are 65 million family caregivers across the country. Nearly one-third of the U.S. adult population are caregivers, providing an average of 20 hours of care per week – with some providing care around-the-clock.
General Tips for Family Caregivers
When you become a family caregiver for the first time, you can feel overwhelmed and hardly know where to start. Here are 10 tips for family caregivers, courtesy of the Caregiver Action Network:
- Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone!
- Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
- Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
- Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
- Caregiving is hard work so take breaks often.
- Watch out for signs of depression and don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it.
- Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
- Organize medical information so it’s up to date and easy to find.
- Make sure legal documents are in order.
- Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!
Tips for Family Caregivers from Doctors
- Write down questions so you won’t forget them
- Be clear and concise about what you want to say to the doctor.
- If you have multiple things to talk about, make a consultation appointment so the doctor can allow enough time to meet with you in an unhurried way.
- Educate yourself about your loved one’s disease or disability. With all the information on the Internet it is easier than ever before.
- Learn the routine at your doctor’s office and/or the hospital so you can make the system work for you, not against you.
- Recognize that not all questions have answers—especially those beginning with “why?”
- Separate your anger and sense of impotence about not being able to help your loved one as much as you would like from your feelings about the doctor. Remember that you are both on the same side.
- Appreciate what the doctor is doing to help and say thank you from time to time.