Caregiver Support: 3 Must-Know Tips for New Caregivers

Posted March 23, 2014

Taking care of our aging parents or loved ones: it can be a lot to handle. Add to the mix chronic illnesses, major decisions to be made over money, or household disruptions, and caretaker stress can hit an all-time high.

Beyond just continued compassion and patience, the following can help you as your parents or loved ones age:

1. Plan ahead…starting now.

Whether you spend a few years—or even decades—in the role as a caretaker, creating a plan of action with those who will be helping you along the way can help everyone start off with as clear expectations as possible.

When possible, meet with your parents before their health declines. Issues around money, medical and lifestyle choices, their safety, end-of-life wishes, and even living arrangements are understandably quite complex. That’s a list that doesn’t even include all the ingrained ways we interact with our family members!

Coming together to plan will help everyone better support your elderly family members as roles within the family start to drastically change. Not to be forgotten is that creating a common approach will also shed light on where your family will need the most outside help, and community resources, in terms of care and support.

2. Divide the workload.

You can’t do everything yourself. A major mistake is that many of us will try.

One thing most of us have trouble with at one time or another: we have to accept that no one can “do it all” by themselves.

From dividing the workload, to utilizing appropriate outside help, be ready to adjust your original plan as the health of your loved ones changes. Don’t be afraid to use all the resources you can—from friends (near and far away), to online forums and groups, to articles on the Internet. Asking to sit down and plan as a family or as a group is one way to ensure you have a discussion about dividing up the workload.

3. …and don’t forget about caring for yourself.

Caring for our loved ones can mean we become fully devoted to their health.

It’s important to be sure you or your partner is not neglecting their own health—both the physical and the emotional aspects.

Signs of caregiver burnout can include:

  • Finding little satisfaction with day-to-day life
  • Never having time for yourself
  • Feeling excessive guilt
  • Feeling resentment
  • Running out of patience quickly
  • Neglecting your own health

Neglecting our own needs as we help our family is just one indication that we are over-stressed and need to find new ways to get relief. Besides looking for resources to help you with your workload, look for ways to set up regular check-ins that don’t rely solely on your efforts.

In the US, as many as 50 million of us are taking care of an elderly person. Having a plan in place, while knowing it’s important to remain flexible, will help you navigate the ever-changing and demanding role of caretaker.