Becoming a Caregiver: What to Expect

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Agreeing to care for a loved one can bring about a variety of changes in your life. In what seems like an instant, your priorities, schedule, and future plans can become almost unrecognizable to you. However, with support and planning, you can take care of your loved one as well as yourself. During these trying times, it is also important to learn what can happen as well as how to address various issues.

The Role Of A Caregiver

A caregiver takes on many duties and tasks. The tasks of a caregiver can range from making schedules, visiting doctors, and administering medication to the day-to-day tasks such as laundry, feeding, and personal care. This change in duties can bring about a drastic change in rest of your life. For example many people find themselves having to leave paying work to be able to take care of a loved one. The Family Medical Leave Act allows for some help, but always check your company’s policy regarding leave.

Taking care of a loved one can also create new feelings to emerge. Being a caregiver can be frustrating and scary, since there is so much information to learn quickly. Seeing someone you love lose abilities and health can cause anger and a sense of loss for the person they used to be. If you need to leave work to take care of someone, you might feel isolated and cut off from the rest of the people you know.

Despite the challenges of being a caregiver, many people experience benefits. Caring for someone can give you a sense of accomplishment and triumph after being capable of more than you thought possible. Additionally, you can strengthen or revive relationships around the patient. Some caregivers also create new friendships as a result of support groups or meeting other caregivers.

When you are a caregiver, one of the main traits that will help you is being organized. Caring for someone with medical needs requires detailed scheduling for medications, doctors appointments, and other daily appointments. Setting a schedule and letting others know of your schedule is a good step to providing good care. Organizing the physical area of the patient is also important to prevent issues such as falls. It is also a good idea to organize your other resources, including people.

Caring For Yourself As Well

After becoming a caregiver, consider enlisting a network of other family members and friends to help you. Having a backup to take care of the patient when you can’t will provide reassurance that someone is with the patient if needed.  It’s also beneficial to ask for help with specific tasks, such as washing laundry or grocery shopping. The important part of all this is to accept that you are human and you’re allowed to ask for help.

When you are caring for someone, it’s also important to take care of yourself.  Remember, you cannot provide the best care if you are too drained to do so.  This is where having a backup helps –having a break, even for a short time, allows you to rest and replenish yourself mentally and physically. Be sure to look into resources in your community, such as caregiver support groups or adult day cares. The patient’s healthcare team might have more information about these resources. Use the time you can, even a few minutes here and there for replenishing activities.  Think about what makes you feel more whole, such as listening to music, meditating, or journaling.

During all of this, remember that the patient is still a person. Let them guide you in how much help they need. They’re still coping with their diagnosis and new life as a patient, so they might also have feelings of anger and loss. Allowing a safe level of independence can benefit everyone — if the patient can do simple tasks, such as getting dressed, he or she should be allowed to do it.

Preparing to be a caregiver is no easy task. You are part of a team focused on helping your loved one have the best life experience possible. It’s important to take care of yourself with the same attention as you would give another, and remember that you are not alone.

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