Being a caregiver is challenging. Every day you make choices that can either contribute to or detract from your long-term health. Choose wisely. Here are some key Habits to Have® to help you find caregiver support, and be a more prepared and healthier caregiver:
Talk to family members about your loved one’s health, future care and housing. Knowing people’s preferences ahead of time will make those hard decisions easier.
Be truthful—with your loved ones and yourself—about how much caregiving responsibility you’re willing and able to take on. Discuss and set your own and your loved one’s personal boundaries now, before anyone becomes uncomfortable with or upset about caregiving responsibilities.
Work with siblings and other family members to develop a caregiving plan that divides and details each person’s responsibilities.
Talk to your loved one about important legal documents like power of attorney, living will and health care proxy. Meet with a financial planner to discuss your loved one’s current financial situation, his or her ability to pay for care down the road and financial assistance options.
Try to stick to a healthy diet. Arrange for a friend or relative to relieve you for 30 minutes every day so you can take a walk or have a few moments to relax. Don’t skip your doctor appointments and don’t ignore signs of illness or exhaustion. Know that feelings of guilt, stress and depression are very common among caregivers. Counseling, support and medication can help you manage these feelings.
Your loved one’s health care providers are an essential part of your caregiving team. Start by having a conversation with your loved one’s doctor about any special needs or concerns you should know about. Then be sure to keep that doctor informed of any caregiving challenges or hurdles.
Loving your spouse, parent or child comes naturally. Knowing how to care for someone with an illness or disability may not. Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s condition, and how the condition may change or progress over time. Seek out disease-specific caregiver support groups.
There are a wealth of online and local support groups and resources for caregivers. Identify local and online resources now. Get connected with a caregiver support group—even if you don’t feel like you need it yet. Visit the Family Caregiver Alliance for a state-by-state guide to support programs.
Say ‘yes’ to any offers of help. Even if it’s just a 15-minute break so you can take a hot shower. Talk to a health care provider or social worker about local support organizations that offer relief or assistance.
Know there may come a time when you can’t do it all yourself. And both you and your loved one would be better off if you hire a professional caregiver to come into your home, or if your loved one moves to a nursing home or long-term care facility. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your family member; it means you care enough to do the right thing.