3 Basic Rules For Being a Good Caregiver

A family caregiver is someone who provides unpaid care to relatives, loved ones, or neighbors. Most of us, at some point, will find ourselves in this role, whether due to a sudden accident or a gradually intensifying illness that necessitates our care. Understanding a few basic rules of being a good caregiver can make the journey ahead smoother for you, the caregiver, and your loved one.

1. Ask for Help

Recognizing that you need help is good for both your loved one and yourself. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Building a robust support network and tapping into community resources like respite care and support groups are essential. This support allows you to take care of your own physical and mental health. In turn, enabling you to be a more effective caregiver. It’s important to be aware that caregivers experiencing burnout risk their own health, potentially compromising their ability to provide care.

Sources of Help

Family and Friends

Family, friends, and neighbors often want to help with caregiving but may not know how. It’s helpful to ask them for specific assistance. From preparing a favorite meal for your mom to light housekeeping, or even spending an hour or two with your loved one while you run errands or enjoy a walk in the park, every bit of help allows you to focus your attention where it’s most needed.

It’s important not to dismiss the offers of help from your family and friends. Initially, you might be able to handle everything alone. But as circumstances change, having a supportive group can make a significant difference. Involve them in caregiving from the beginning. Caregiving is a profoundly loving act, offering opportunities for growth and deeper connections. By asking for help, you’re easing your burden and allowing your family and friends to share in this enriching experience. Don’t miss out on this by hesitating to seek their support.

Government/Not-For-Profit Advocacy Groups and Agencies

There are many programs available to caregivers through government agencies and non-profit organizations. Finding available assistance and understanding how to access it is the challenge. The first place we recommend looking for information about local programs and services is your local Area Agency on Aging. Dedicated to supporting older adults and their caregivers, these agencies exist nationwide. They provide a wealth of resources, including access to in-home care services, meal programs, transportation assistance, and caregiver support. Area Agencies on Aging are designed to be one-stop shops for information and assistance. They help you navigate the variety of services available in your community to meet the specific needs of aging individuals.

Find your local Area Agency on Aging.

Churches and Synagogues

In times of need, your church or synagogue can be a tremendous source of comfort. These religious organizations are often among the largest providers of community support. They offer a range of assistance, including spiritual and emotional guidance, volunteers for companionship, meals, caregiver relief, and, in some cases, financial aid. As a caregiver, you may find many of your needs met through local churches and synagogues. Reach out to your place of worship to discover the available services. Both you and they will be grateful for the connection.

2. Take Care of Yourself

As a caregiver, taking care of yourself is incredibly important. It can be tough to focus on your own needs while attending to a loved one, but remember, a caregiver who is burned out or unwell isn’t able to provide the best care. To keep yourself healthy and balanced (and this is where assistance from family and friends is so valuable), it’s essential to adopt a few basic self-care practices:

Get enough sleep

Sleep is a very important part of good health. Just like a new mother does, sleep when your loved one sleeps. Even if the sleep is sporadic, it is better than not sleeping at all.

Pay attention to your nutrition

A cornerstone of your personal care is nutrition. Fuel your body with the right foods and nutrients. It makes a big difference in your ability to cope with the physical demands and stress that caregiving brings.

Exercise

Find 15–30 minutes a day for some form of physical exercise. You may wonder how, as tired as you are, you will find the strength to exercise. But the fact is, moderate exercise will give you more energy, reduce stress, and improve your overall health. Find some form of exercise that you like. Even a walk around the park or neighborhood with your loved one will provide benefits. And the fresh air will do you both some good!

Find a hobby

Engage in activities that bring you joy. Consider hobbies like reading, yoga, crosswords, gardening, or crocheting that you can easily do at home. Additionally, make time for short outings or lunch dates with friends. These breaks can significantly uplift your state of mind.

Mind your physical health

When you’re focused on your loved one’s health care, it’s easy to overlook your own. Remember to schedule regular check-ups and keep up with important screenings like mammograms or prostate exams. If you take any medications, stay consistent with them and keep an eye on your own health conditions.

Talk to other caregivers

There are many wonderful groups both online and in person where you can share, laugh, and give support.

Learn more about caregiver support groups.

3. Educate yourself about…

How to give care

Being a caregiver is hard. Take caregiver skills training if available. This will equip you with essential knowledge and guidance for all aspects of caregiving.

Financial matters

It’s important to familiarize yourself with insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid matters. Be informed about the care recipient’s financial situation, if applicable. Keeping accurate financial records is essential. If you’re not confident in managing the financial aspects of caregiving, consider consulting an elder law attorney, accountant, or financial advisor. They can assist in safeguarding assets for the long term, so you can continue to provide care effectively.

Hire an elder law attorney to deal with wills and estate plans, durable powers of attorney, advance directives, Medicaid planning issues, protection of assets, and much more.

You’ve got this!

Remember, as a caregiver, you are an incredible gift to the person you’re caring for, and you don’t have to be perfect. Embrace the mantra, “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” It’s okay if your house isn’t spotless or if you find comfort in wearing your favorite sweats. Treasure the moments you spend with your loved one and recognize the privilege of providing them with the profound gift of love and care.


Disclaimer: The content on this site is meant for general informational purposes and should not be considered professional advice. While we strive for accuracy, we recommend consulting experts for specific guidance. We are not responsible for any decisions made based on this information.


Liz Craven
Liz Craven

Liz Craven, co-publisher of Sage Aging ElderCare Guide alongside her husband Wes, brings a blend of personal experience and heartfelt dedication to her work. Their path in eldercare started with a family story — caring for Wes' grandmother, Mabel, who faced Alzheimer's. This personal chapter not only highlighted the complexities of eldercare but also ignited their passion to support others in similar situations. Later, Liz and Wes filled the caregiver role three more times for their parents. Through the Sage Aging ElderCare Guide, Liz offers a mix of empathetic insight and practical advice, making eldercare more approachable and less daunting for families. Her commitment shines through in every piece of advice, aiming to ease the journey for others as they navigate the world of eldercare.

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