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10 Tips for Family Caregivers

Celebrating caregivers during National Family Caregivers Month, enables all of us to:

  • Raise awareness of family caregiver issues
  • Celebrate the efforts of family caregivers
  • Educate family caregivers about self-identification
  • Increase support for family caregivers

Caregivers come from all ages and walks of life. Anyone can suddenly find themselves as a caregiver with little to no warning or preparation. These special individuals deserve to have their selflessness and dedication recognized and honored.  

In his National Family Caregivers Month Proclamation in 2012, former President Barack Obama stated:

Family members, friends, and neighbors devote countless hours to providing care to their relatives or loved ones. During National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.”

The world of eldercare brings many challenges you may not have anticipated ; making it all the more important to take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.

Here are 10 tips every caregiver should know:

  1. You are not alone. Seek support from other caregivers. One of the most important things to remember when caring for an elderly loved one, is to know you aren’t alone. More than 65 million Americans care for their aging or disabled loved ones on a yearly basis.
  2. Take care of your own health first. You have to take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one. If you’re not keeping yourself health and happy, it’s doubtful that you will be able to do your best for your loved one.
  3. Watch out for signs of depression and don’t delay getting professional help when needed. Caregiving can be physically and emotionally stressful. To provide the best care possible, you might put your loved one's needs before your own. In turn, you could develop feelings of sadness, anger and loneliness… Ignoring or denying your feelings will not make them go away.
  4. Accept offers of help from others. When people offer to help, accept the offer and suggest specific things that they can do.
  5. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is. Don’t down play the significant role you play in your loved ones life. Remember how important your role is and that you deserve praise.
  6. Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors. As a caregiver, one of your most important challenges is becoming an effective advocate with their doctors and medical team. Effective communication between the caregiver and the health care team will ensure that the right information is shared and that good care is delivered promptly.
  7. Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one. In addition to searching for information on loved one’s medical problems, treatments and drugs, many go online to read about the personal experiences others have had with certain health conditions — as a way to understand more about their loved one’s health or even a condition they’re dealing with themselves.
  8. Make sure legal documents are in order. Discuss end-of-life treatment wishes, power of attorney, living will and other legal documents with your elderly loved one. You don't want to find yourself struggling over complicated legal matters when there's a crisis and tensions are high.
  9. You have limits. Despite the demonstrated strength and perseverance of family caregivers, each of us has limits. It’s important to recognize when our loved one has declined to a point that professional care is the best option.
  10. Caregiving can be costly. There are many clouded costs to family caregiving that should be considered before committing to becoming the full-time caregiver for an older loved one. Being aware of these costs can also help non-caregivers appreciate the sacrifice caregivers make, and the profound importance of their role.
MedicAlert Team Member