Considerations for Beginner Caregivers
If you’re a beginner caregiver, you may find it hard to know where to begin. Possibly you’ve only recently recognized that a loved one needs support, and is no longer as self-sufficient as he or she once was. Or maybe there has been an event or change that affected a loved one’s health.
It’s time for you to seriously consider the changes that are about to take place in your life and to prepare, as best you can for the sacrifices and rewards that lay ahead.
Beginner caregivers can be a little overwhelmed if they have never been around it. There’s a good chance though that you have. Either you’ve seen it in your own extended family or you know one of the 50+ million caregivers in our society.
To make the job as easy and comfortable as possible, you should try to get out in front and prepare and organize. Having been a caregiver myself for two different family members for just over 13 years, I came up with a short list that worked for me and my family. Maybe you can adapt some for your own use.
Identify the Need
- Your loved-one is in need of help for reasons of their own. They may have recently fallen or been injured in some way that will require extended aid. Maybe there’s an illness involved or perhaps their just advanced in age and/or showing signs of dementia. Talk to their doctor about the level of care they need. Ask for suggestions on how to proceed.
- Beginner caregivers will need to consider what changes to make around the house their living in to improve their safety and mobility. Things like grab bars in the bathroom or an outdoor ramp for a wheelchair or walker. You should look at all their daily routines: bathing, eating, shopping, bill paying or anything that requires your attention to remain safe for their use and secure from scammers and predators.
- Start looking for help now. We first turned to family members to ask if they would be will to help-out on part time basis. Trips to the doctor or grocery shopping,.. anything to help. Perhaps there is someone who can occasionally day-sit when needed. Talk to the doctor about getting Home Health Care (Medicare pays for it). You can get nurse visits, therapists and even a bather to help. Check for outreach programs in your community for things like Senior Citizen groups, Adult Day Care and Meals on Wheels.
Finances and Life Issues
- Discuss with your loved-one their finances and determine if there is a need for you to have a Durable Power of Attorney. This will give you access to funds when and if they become unable to manage their own money. You should also discuss end of life issues with them. A Medical Power on Attorney will give you the right to make medical decisions on their behalf. We found the Patients’ Rights Council a valuable resource for information and documents with these two important issues. I suggest you visit their website.
Take Care of Yourself
- The most important tip to consider is caring for the caregiver. You must be careful to care for yourself or the stress will overcome you. Your “normal” life can move into the background and stress increase with your responsibilities. You must take care of yourself or you won’t be able to care for anyone. This is why it is important to involve other family members and to make use of any community programs. Try to have at least one full day off scheduled for every week. There are caregiver support groups online and possibly in your community.
Beginner caregivers will find caring for a loved-one a worthy endeavor that can be challenging at times, but there are rewards as well. The satisfaction of caring for a loved-one in their time of need.
If you have suggestions, we’d like to hear them.