When it comes to this new beginning, it’s important to remember that you're not alone. There are millions of family caregivers across the country, and a lot of information at your fingertips. At Concordia, we talk to “nonprofessional” family caregivers every day and want to offer the following advice to help get you started:
1) Talk to Your Loved One - Have a conversation with your loved one to explain how you are planning to help them. Make it clear that you respect their wishes, are on their side and want to hear their thoughts and concerns. You can also let them know that you will consult with them when making decisions, and your main priority is to help them meet their needs.
2) Ask for Help - Identify ways that family, friends or local organizations can help support you in some of your new responsibilities. It's easier to think this through early on instead of when the need arises. If you have siblings or close family members, perhaps sit down with them to talk through what responsibilities you are willing to take on, and which specific ones you might need help with. Ensuring you're on the same page as your family members can help to avoid conflict down the road. If you don't have family willing to help, you can look into professional caregivers from a home care agency like Concordia Private Care to take some of the responsibility off of your shoulders.
3) Care for Yourself - During your caregiving journey, don't lose sight of caring for yourself. Remember your own identity, and make sure to do things for yourself. Take time to exercise, eat balanced meals, go to your own doctor’s appointments and get enough sleep. When you are well taken care of, the person
you are caring for will benefit.
4) Find Information on Caregiving - If you're new to caregiving, you may need to learn about different topics, and there are organizations that can help. For example, if your loved one has dementia, learning about that disease can help you provide the right care to meet your loved one's unique needs. A few organizations that provide information on caregiving are The Family Caregiver Alliance and Caregiver Action Network. You can also look into local senior care facilities to see what information or services they offer that might help. For example, here at Concordia, we have many blog articles with information on caregiving and offer services that can help caregivers, including Adult Day Services, Memory Care and In-Home Care.
5) Manage Stress - Don't let your caregiving tasks create too much stress in your life. Know your limits, and don't go over them. When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a break without feeling guilty. Build a support network to turn to when you need to talk to someone or join a caregiver support group. You can find these support groups by contacting Concordia or perhaps reach out to your local church or community center. You can also write your experiences in a journal or on a blog to share them with other caregivers.
6) Get Organized - Make your caregiver tasks more manageable by getting organized. Create a to-do list/calendar that might include upcoming doctor visits, housekeeping tasks at your loved one's home, learning about your loved one's medical history, reviewing legal matters, and making a list of your loved one's important accounts (e.g., social security number, insurance information, bank accounts, driver's license). Make a prioritized list of what needs done and how you plan to do it. This list might also help you better understand when you might need support from others so you can ask for help ahead of time.
We understand what you might be feeling if you're planning to care for a loved one, and we hope our advice can get you started off on the right foot.
If you have questions about caregiving or how Concordia might be able to help, contact us any time via our online contact form or by calling our administrative headquarters at 724-352-1571. Or, visit the care levels & services page of our website to learn about the types of care we offer.