How to Be A Caregiver
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This post may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure policy for details.
Statistics say 75% of us will either become or need a caregiver at some point in our lives. Most of us will become a Family Caregiver; we will take care of someone in our family, usually an elderly parent or spouse. Very few of us however are equipped to take on such a colossal role. As we consider the possibility or even the reality that we will be a caregiver most of us are also faced with the dilemma of exactly how to be a caregiver.
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How To Be A Caregiver
When we think about how to be a caregiver we usually begin with the physical or financial needs of the family caregiver.
- How will we pay for this?
- Where will we find the time for all caregiving entails?
- What if I’m not physically strong enough?
- What happens when there’s an emergency?
- What happens when my role of caregiver clash with my role of spouse or parent or friend?
So many questions!
When you start factoring in the emotional and mental toll caregiving has on most caregivers the entire prospect of caregiving becomes just plain overwhelming.
Would it shock you to know that this overwhelm can be managed with a little planning?
It’s true! What caregivers need most is to create a caregiving plan that broadly covers every aspect, every challenge, and every question so that you can be a
How To Be A Caregiver: Your Caregiving Plan
Creating a plan of such magnitude when there are so many variables seems absolutely impossible. Keep reading to find out how to make this impossible task very possible with minimal stress on you.
We’ve established that what caregivers need most when determining how to be a caregiver is a caregiving plan, but what exactly goes into this caregiving plan?
We don’t want to think about our parents or our spouse needing a caregiver. We don’t want to think about needing a caregiver ourselves. The reality is, most of us will either be or need a caregiver. Even with this reality staring us in the face, most of us still come into caregiving blindsided and horribly unprepared. I know I was when I became a caregiver for my MIL.
What caregivers need most is preparation.
But how can you possibly know what to prepare for? When you start to prepare for the possibility of needing or becoming a caregiver, you’ll want to prepare:
- Personal Information: Make a cover sheet with your name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number. You’ll also want to make a condensed life history with details you want remembered as well as habits that are important to you (diet, exercise, religious, etc.)
- Medical Information: Detail anything currently being treated, medications: what they treat and who prescribes them, Names and contact info for all doctors and specialists
- Legal Documents: Power of Attorney, Living Will, Directives
- Prepare a Caregiver Mission Statement that clearly outlines what your (or your loved one’s) desires are. Use this as the foundation for every plan or decision you make.
- Financial Documents: Budget and account information, Investment Information, Location of deeds, titles, etc.
- Contact List: This list should include everyone you do business with, the people who are important to you and you want to remain in contact with, the people you want to keep updated.
- Potential Needs: Make a list of your current health needs and discuss with your (or your loved one’s) doctor about future needs you might have.
In addition to gathering and preparing information, you’ll also want to have solid plans in place for:
- hired caregivers
- Time off (yes, you’ll need to take regular time off)
- Family agreements
- Schedules and routines
- Boundaries for yourself and your home
- Strategies for obstacles
- Home safety
- Moving through the different stages of caregiving
There is a sudden illness or death in the family that has thrust you into family caregiving. Your friends and extended family look on you in sympathy and promise to be there for you whenever you need it.
Then they go home leaving you to wonder just how to be a caregiver.
You might get a call once and a while. Maybe a visit here and there from other family. But as hard as it is to acknowledge, you’re mostly on your own. Even if you could call someone, would you and your loved one feel comfortable relying on them?
What caregivers need most is support.
Support is out there! You just have to know where to find it.
Did you know that most doctor’s offices have a social worker that is there for the caregiver as much as the patient? They know just how stressful family caregiving is and how important it is for you to find the support you need.
There are therapists out there that specialize in family caregiving who are there to help you work through the emotional toll caregiving takes on a person. They will also be able to provide you with the tools you need to help your loved one stay emotionally healthy.
Another great place of support is your church. In every Christian person’s life there is a time to minister and a time to be ministered to. Plug in somewhere and let them minister to you. You will be able to reciprocate soon enough but for this season, find other ways of serving your church family (prayer, calls, sending notes, etc.) and let them be a source of support for you.
Contact your local Department of Aging and Disability for other sources of support. They will know what’s available in your area.
You become a caregiver still not knowing how to be a caregiver. You’re overwhelmed with medicine bottles, appointment cards, and paperwork. You try to talk to “the professionals” to make sense of it all but they barely give you the time of day or bombard you with more information than you can handle.
You see words you don’t understand. Your loved one is experiencing symptoms you can’t explain. You don’t know how to help your loved one. You feel overwhelmed and are certain your failing. Are you even cut out for this?
My friend, the solution to this anxiety is education.
When I became a caregiver I felt like I was drowning every minute of every day. I was immersed in chaos with no way out. I would try to gain clarity by asking my MIL’s doctors, attorneys, and other professionals for some semblance of clarity, just a little idea of what I needed to do to make things easier for me and my MIL at home.
They seemed as clueless as I was.
I lived like this for two years until I finally realized my solution was to educate myself and inform these professionals what I needed from them instead of relying on them for information.
I learned what caregivers need most is education.
Where do you find this education?
Well, as much as professionals will tell you to shy away from “Doctor Google”, as a family caregiver I’m going to tell you to start there. Google has made incredible improvements in their algorithms to find you the best and most accurate information possible. While you can’t trust everything online, there are ways to do your research so that you can be confident your information is accurate. Discover who your trusted sources are and return to them frequently.
Join some online support groups and use them as a sounding board. Odds are many of them have experienced the same things you are experiencing. While no two caregiving situations are the same, there is much you can learn from another family caregiver. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Ask about what has helped other family caregivers and use that as your starting place.
Take your information to the professionals. The more you know about something the less inclined they will be to give you a “just trust me” answer. If you go in with at least a basic knowledge of what you need to discuss, they will more likely be able to fill in the gaps.
All the family and friends who promised their devoted help have gone home. Now you’re at home with your loved one who is as confused as you are and angry that you exist. You’re tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, and still no closer to figuring out how to be a caregiver. Your loved one is becoming more resistant by the second.
What caregivers need most is help.
One of the first places to look for caregiving help is with the social worker at your loved one’s physicians office. Not only will they have an extensive list of the resources available in your community but they will also have strategies to get these services at little to no cost to you.
Did you know adult daycare is a thing? For working family caregivers and their loved ones adult daycare is a Godsend. It keeps your loved one social and active while giving the caregiver peace of mind that their loved one is not alone all day.
Hiring help is another way to find support. There are many agencies out there that have trained Certified Nurse’s Assistants as well as general caregivers. You can get someone to run errands for you, deliver groceries, and even cooked meals.
You feel like you’re doing your best but you don’t seem to be making any headway. Your kindness toward your loved one is met with hostility. The doctor’s and specialists seem to doubt your ability and are pushing assisted living or even skilled nursing. You’re second-guessing every decision including the big one of becoming a family caregiver.
Guess what? You are not alone! Most family caregivers are experiencing very much the same things you are experiencing.
Here’s a new flash for you. There is no one right way to be a caregiver. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret; the cornerstone to working out how to be a caregiver is confidence.
Here are some facts about family caregiving:
- You are taking care of a human unlike any other human on the planet.
- You are a human unlike any other human on the planet.
- You’re going to make mistakes.
A lot of times caregiving is compared to parenting. I’ve done it. In so many ways the things I do as a caregiver match the things I do as a parent. Many of our loved ones have reverted to child-like behaviors and mannerisms.
There are many difference in parenting and caregiving however and a big one is when you’re a parent your skills grow with your child. Most family caregivers are handed a grown adult that we have to figure out how to take care of immediately.
You’re going to feel insecure and doubt your decisions but I can tell you from experience, you must get over that doubt and insecurity because your loved one is not safe, healthy, or happy until you are confident as a caregiver.
What caregivers need most is confidence.
The only way to become a confident caregiver is by overcoming the other obstacles that we’ve talked about; prepation, support, education, and help. You need a plan and you need it now. It may not be the only way to become a confident caregiver but it is the easiest and the fastest which benefits both you and your loved one.
How to be a caregiver: Hire A Family Caregiver Specialist!
Two years after I became a caregiver I had to face some harsh facts:
- I was anxious, overwhelmed, and miserable 100% of the time.
- I was two years in and still had no idea of what I was doing.
- I had no idea how long this stage of life was going to last.
I knew I had to do something and do it quickly. I got online and started doing some research and that’s when I discovered my Family Caregiver Specialist.
What is a Family Caregiver Specialist?
In short, a Family Caregiver Specialist is someone who has experienced what you are experiencing as a family caregiver. They are trained to provide you with the tools you need to become a confident and successful caregiver.
When I contacted my Family Caregiver Specialist, she took the time to get to know me and my situation. Then over the next 6 weeks she guided me through creating a plan specific to my needs and my unique situation.
After that, it was up to me to implement my new plan.
Can a Family Caregiver Specialist really help me?
Yes! No matter what stage of caregiving you’re in, a Family Caregiver Specialist will be there to guide, support, and equip you with the tools you need to be successful.
Caregiving can either become your biggest regret or one of the most fulfilling parts of your life.
Your Family Caregiver Specialist will guide you through creating a plan and give you the confidence to put it into action.
But more than that, your Family Caregiver Specialist will give you the confidence to tweak your plan as your situation changes (which it will). You will find yourself able to strategize and overcome caregiving obstacles, advocate for your loved one, and better take care of yourself.
Most importantly, your Family Caregiver Specialist lets you tune out the unnecessary voices and focus on what will actually help you and your loved one.
How do I get a Family Caregiver Specialist?
As a trained Family Caregiver Specialist I am here to help you succeed. I have been where you are and know what you’re going through. I want to help you develop a strategy specific to your caregiving situation.
I will guide you through
- Creating an individualized plan,
- Finding your sources of support and help,
- and weeding out the unnecessary voices while pointing you to sources of authority.
After our time together, you will have greater confidence in your ability as a caregiver that will just grow over time.
Want to find out more? Check out my website BrandiBlairConsulting.com and let me help you become a confident family caregiver.
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