You never know when you’ll have to start providing care to a loved one. It may happen gradually as your loved one’s health begins to decline. It could also happen suddenly after an unexpected, serious medical issue. Becoming a caregiver can be a difficult transition, and many new caregivers don’t even know where to begin. However, there are some steps you can take which can make the transition smoother, and help you quickly become a great caregiver for your loved one.
Having a conversation with an older loved one about caregiving may seem uncomfortable, especially if they’re still healthy and don’t require care yet. However, it’s important to start talking about things early and to develop a plan on what to do if something happens. Being prepared in advance can make things much easier if a situation occurs in which you have to become a caregiver for them. Knowing ahead of time what to do, where they want to live, and the type of care they want can be extremely helpful.
You may think you know what’s best for your loved one, but oftentimes they may feel differently. Good caregivers sit down with their loved ones, ask questions about what they need, and listen. This is especially important when it comes to decisions about their living situation. You should be clear about their needs and wants so that you can figure out the best ways to fulfill them. The most important thing is letting them know that their voice is heard in regards to the care that they want.
Even if your loved one isn’t at a stage where they need to move to a nursing home or assisted care facility, you should still look into the ones located in your area. Health issues could potentially occur at any time, and they may need to be moved into one of these facilities on short notice. In these situations, it’s better to be informed beforehand of all the options in the area and which would be best for your loved one.
Being organized is an important part of any family caregiver's job. You should ensure you keep track of all medical documents, prescriptions, insurance information and doctors' appointments. Any necessary legal documents should be prepared as well, such as Power of Attorney, a living will, or a Last Will and Testament. Financial documents should also be collected and organized, including any bills, invoices, and accounting records. If your loved one is in poor health, they likely won't have the energy to take care of complicated documents, so doing this can be a huge help. Caregiver can sometimes feel like a full-time job, and may interfere with your actual career. If that's the case, check out this article for tips on how to manage caregiving with your career.
It may be tempting to try to take on a lot of work by yourself, but sometimes this isn’t feasible. Every caregiver has limits, and you need to figure out what yours are. Don’t overwork yourself, as this can lead to caregiver burnout, which can have serious consequences. It’s easy to become discouraged but you should try to remain confident knowing you’re doing the best you can.
At some point, every caregiver will need help. Whether it’s a task you can’t do by yourself, or you just need a break for a while, there’s no shame in getting some assistance from someone else. If someone offers to help with caregiving duties, consider taking them up on their offer. If you need help, don’t feel ashamed about asking for it, especially if you’re getting overwhelmed. If you end up needing more help than family or friends can provide, it may be a good idea to look into home care or other professional services.
If you don’t take the time to take care of yourself, how can you ensure you’ll be healthy enough to take care of your loved one? Burnout is a serious issue that all caregivers should be aware of. Sometimes you just need a break – and that’s fine. Take some time for yourself, and use it to de-stress, relax, and recharge. Doing this will make sure you stay healthy and focused, and in turn, will make you a better caregiver for your loved one.
Making the transition to a new caregiver can be difficult. Thankfully, there’s a network of caregivers out there that can help you adapt to your new situation through online or in-person support groups and family caregiver organizations. You can also get support from close family and friends – many will likely be more than willing to give you a hand when times are tough. Caregiving can be overwhelming at times, but if you have a solid network around you to help out, it makes things so much easier.
Wendy studies English Language and Literature at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.
Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.
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