The Key Steps for New Caregivers

The Key Steps for New Caregivers

At the beginning stages of caregiving, it will be a struggle for you because you won’t know who to turn to for help. You’re new to the family caregiver scene. It’s confusing and sometimes frightening. And it may be the first time that your relative needs your help. This is a first time experience for the two of you and equally scary for both.

Maybe there’s a sudden change in the relative’s health or over time, chronic illness has made them weak and dependent.You must take action now and learn to reach out to people, services, and information that will be a guide for you to help care for a loved one. The earlier you act and find support, the sooner you’ll get a handle on the confusion and frustration that is often experienced in the caregiving process.

1. Have the conversation

You may be familiar with the 40/70 rule. If you, the family member is age 40, and your relative is 70 years of age or older, then it’s time to have “the talk” about senior care issues. Actually, elder care conversations should begin much earlier than 70. The sooner you bring up the difficult topics —who will care for you, can you afford care at home and can you pay for assisted living — the easier the conversations will be.

When is a good time to have the talk? The best time is when a parent or relative is in good health, active, and independent.But if you have waited too long and a parent is in the hospital needing your help on what to do next, then you must reach out to the local community and get support.

Local and national support organizations include:

  • The Federal Caregiver Resources
  • Lots of Helping Hands
  • Family members or friends who are experienced caregivers
  • Your church, temple, or another place of worship
  • Caregiver support groups at a local hospital or online
  • A therapist, social worker, or counselor
  • Organizations & associations specific to your family member’s illness or disability

2. Understand caregiving challenges

Know what caregivers face. The challenges of direct care are:

  • Get training and learn new skills. Many books, videos, and classes are available to inform you about what you can expect from your loved one's disease or aging process progresses.
  • Learn how to help your loved transfer correctly and get out of bed without straining your back.
  • Learn how to care for specific diseases. For example, if a loved one lives with diabetes, learn how to care for that condition.

3. Self-care

Self-care is important for all caregivers. Follow these often:

  • Take a break from caregiving.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Ask for help and support.
  • Get help with tasks like bathing and preparing meals.
  • Engage in activities that will make you feel happy and healthy.

4. Manage caregiving stress

  • Recognize the warning signs like irritability, sleep problems, and forgetfulness.
  • Identify sources of stress, "What is causing stress for me?" Sources may be that you have too much to do, feelings of inadequacy, or disagreements with siblings.
  • Know your limits. Identify what you can and cannot handle.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Get a health check-up.

Carol Marak is a contributor for the senior living and health care market. She advocates older adults and family caregivers by writing on tough topics like chronic issues, senior care and housing.