Family Caregivers

FamilyCareGiver

Caring for the Caregiver

The information in the Family Caregiver section of this guide is designed to help those who are family caregivers or are just beginning the caregiving journey. It is a starting point and intended to help lead you to the information and support you need. Much more detailed information is available on our website at PolkElderCare.com with phone numbers, links and downloads of tips, checklists and worksheets.

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A family caregiver is an unpaid person who cares for relatives or loved ones. They may be caring for members of their family, close friends or neighbors.

At some point in our lives many of us will become a family caregiver. Your caregiving journey may be due to a sudden accident or perhaps an illness that has reached the point that your care is needed. What ever the case may be, the road ahead for you, the caregiver, and your loved one will be smoother if you understand the basics of good caregiving. Below you will find the 3 Rules For Being a Good Caregiver.

 

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It is OK to Ask for Help

As a matter of fact, it is the best thing you can do for both your loved one and yourself. Everything else is secondary. Do not feel guilty, or like you have failed if you need assistance. Burnout can happen if you don’t get help. One of the greatest gifts you can give the one you are caring for is the gift of not feeling like they are a burden. Many times care recipients experience guilt about receiveing care. “Because of me, she doesn’t get out and do anything fun anymore.” If you want the one that you are caring for to be happy, ask for help.

We Understand That
No one can take care of your loved one like you can. YOU KNOW the “schedule” for medicines, appointments and when the best time to eat is. YOU KNOW how she likes her covers tucked in, what the temperature in the house should be, or how he likes his oatmeal. It is true that no one will be able to do it exactly like you do, but after awhile, if you don’t get help, you won’t be able to do it like you used to, either.

Sources of Help

Family & Friends

Rely on your family and friends. If you have family and friends who can and are willing to help, then you need to spread the love and make them a part of the care process. Ask them to do specific things to help you. Many times people are willing to help, but they don’t know what to do. Ask someone to make a pan of their favorite lasagna that mom likes so much. It will make them feel good that they can help out. When they come over to deliver the meal maybe everyone can sit down and enjoy it together. There is nothing better to bring people together than a good meal. You and your loved one will appreciate someone different to talk to and look at!

Don’t push family and friends away and tell them you are doing fine and don’t need their help. Even if you are doing fine at the moment, let them help anyway. Because after awhile they may not offer anymore. Sometimes, they don’t even realize that you do need help, and may not offer. Seek their help and make them a part of the caregiving. Caregiving is one of the most loving acts that anyone can ever do. You will grow and love more than you ever thought you could. Your family members deserve to experience this level of love as well. Don’t deprive them by not asking for help. If they are not accommodating, it is there loss.

Government Agencies/Not-For-Profit Advocacy Groups and Agencies

There are many programs available to caregivers from government agencies and not-for-profit entities. The key is to learn how to navigate the system so that you can determine what help is available and then figure out how to get it. For more information on the wide array of services and programs available go to PolkElderCare.com where you will find a list of local agencies with phone numbers and links to websites.

Churches and Synagogues

During times of need there is no better place to find comfort than your church or synagogue. Religious organizations are perhaps one of the largest providers of help in your community. From spiritual and emotional guidance to volunteers that provide companionship, food, caregiver relief and sometimes even financial assistance, many of your needs as a caregiver can be found at local churches and synagogues. Call your church or synagogue to see what services are available. They, and you, will be glad you did.

You can find phone numbers and websites in The Resources and Support section

Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do not only for yourself, but for the one you are caring for as well. It is understandable that you might feel there is no way you can do what is suggested here because you “don’t have the time or you are just too tired.” But the reality is if you don’t take care of yourself, in the long run you won’t be able to properly care of your loved one either.

Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is a very important part to good health. Sleep when they sleep, even if it is sporadic, it is beneficial.

Eat right & Take Your Vitamins
You have heard that before. Just like an athlete you must fuel your body with the right foods and nutrients in order to compete, and in your case, to provide care.

Get Physical Exercise
Find 30 minutes a day for some form of physical exercise. You may wonder how, as tired you are, you will find the strength to exercise. The fact is that moderate exercise will do wonders for giving you more energy, reducing stress and improving your overall health. Find some form of exercise that you like. Do not do something that you dread. You will end up quitting.

Find an Activity
Find something you like to do for enjoyment. Do anything that makes you happy. Reading, yoga, crosswords, gardening and crocheting are all great things to do by yourself at home while you are taking care of your loved one. You also need to find something you can do with a friend outside of the home, if possible. This is one of those times where you need to Ask For Help so that you can get out of the house for an hour or two.

Care for your own physical health, and your mental well being. You may be so preoccupied with your loved one’s health, that you forget about your own. The suggestions above will help reduce your stress and will keep your body fit for the challenges you will face. Get regular check-ups, get your mammogram or prostate screenings. If you are on medications yourself, don’t forget to take them and monitor your own health. Talk to other caregivers. There are many wonderful groups both online and in person where you can share, laugh and give support to others just like you. You must take breaks from caregiving. Studies show that prolonged periods of caregiving can adversely affect your physical and psychological health. Taking breaks gives you a chance to recharge your batteries. Just like in sports, you take breaks, “time outs,” so that you can perform at your best. Caregiving is no different.

Learn As Much As You Can

Educate yourself about…

How to Give Care

Take caregiving training if available. This will prepare you for what you need to know and how you should provide care in all aspects of caregiving.

Financial matters.

Understand insurance, Medicare and Medicaid issues, and know about the care recipient’s finances, if relevant. Maintain good financial records. Look at hiring an accountant or a financial advisor if you do not understand the money end of caring. Look at protecting assets long term so that you are able to keep caring for your loved one.

Legal issues.

Look at finding an elder law attorney to deal with durable powers of attorney, advance directives, Medicaid planning issues and much more.

Understand that you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be willing to take on the responsibility of caregiving. Love enough to care and care enough to love. The old saying is still true today. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Sit and make a list of what you think are the most important things you need to do on a daily basis to care for your loved one. Once you do this, you will find out where to spend your time and won’t sweat the small stuff.

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