First Steps for New Caregivers

  • It’s easy to become overwhelmed as a new caregiver. Here are some steps that can help:
  • Identify yourself as a caregiver
  • Get a good diagnosis—from a specialist or geriatrician if necessary—of your loved one’s health condition
  • Learn what specific skills you might need to care for someone with this diagnosis (Caring for someone with Frontotemporal dementia, for example, is different from caring for someone with chronic heart disease)
  • Talk about finances and healthcare wishes
  • Complete legal paperwork, e.g., Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives
  • Bring family and friends together to discuss care
  • Keep them up to date on the current situation
  • Identify resources, both personal and in the community
  • Find support for yourself and your loved one
  • Remember, you are not alone

Most importantly, remember that taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of someone else.

There are 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the United States.
Of that group, nine-in-ten are providing care for an aging relative, and a plurality is caring for a parent, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Adults ages 45 to 64 are the most likely to be caregivers.
In fact, about a quarter (23%) of adults ages 45 to 64 cares for an aging adult.
Most caregiving for aging parents is not in the form of financial support or personal care.
More commonly, adults have helped their parent with errands, housework or home repairs.
Emotional support is a big part of caregiving.
Most adults say they provide some emotional support for their aging parents, but more women say this than men.

The Big 3 for Successful Coping

  • EAT RIGHT—good nutrition as opposed to stress-snacking. Limit alcohol and other drugs
  • EXERCISE—it may be hard to find time but it’s the best cure for depression and increases your endorphins (“good” coping hormones)
  • SLEEP—7-8 hours is hard to get, but essential. Admit when you are experiencing burnout and get help

Keys to Caring for Yourself

It‘s one thing to gear up for a short-term crisis. But it takes different skills to provide care over a longer period of time. You’ll be more successful if you learn to take care of yourself, starting immediately. Some things to remember:

  • You cannot be perfect
  • You have a right to all of your emotions (See FCA Fact Sheet Emotional Side of Caregiving.)
  • Depression is the most common emotion of long-term caregivers
  • Set realistic expectations—for yourself and your loved one
  • Learn about the disease and what you can expect
  • Learn the skills you need to care for the care receiver and which ones you are or are not able to perform
  • Learn to say “no” to things you cannot do
  • Learn to accept help from others
  • Build resilience
  • Identify your button-pushers/stressors
  • Identify your coping skills
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