Tips for Caregivers

Most people may become caregivers at some point in their lives, according to the Family Caregiving Alliance. This may mean helping a family member or friend with tasks such as taking him or her to medical appointments, doing grocery shopping, looking after legal and financial matters, and assisting with daily medications.

Caregiving can be overwhelming at times, especially if you’re new to it. The ideas below can help you prepare for the challenges to come.

1. Taking care of you. As a new caregiver, you may at times forget about your own health and well-being when you’re looking after someone else. That is why it’s important to make time for yourself when you can. For example, getting regular physical activity can help you feel better and boost your energy levels. Try including activities such as walking, cycling, or gardening in your routine. It’s important to eat regular, nutritious meals as well, and to get your scheduled medical checkups. All of these things can help you stay healthier and more energized, which can help you do your best as a caregiver.

2. Looking after everyday needs. Every caregiving situation is different, and circumstances can change over time. So it helps to understand what the person in your care may need help with from day to day, including:

  • Health care: medication management, appointments with health care professionals
  • Emotional care: companionship, conversation, encouragement
  • Household care: cooking, cleaning, laundry
  • Personal care: bathing, eating, dressing
  • Everyday care: running errands, balancing the checkbook

3. Creating a care plan. Once you know the needs of the person in your care and can prioritize them, you can create a written care plan. This plan will help you look after the person in your care—and yourself. Keep in mind that your care plan always will be a work in progress, as needs and priorities change over time. When creating your care plan, consider:

  • Making a list of things you have time for and are able to do for the person in your care
  • Writing down what you’ll need help with—either now or in the near future. Think about who can help you look after the person in your care (for example, family, friends, neighbors).
  • Creating a schedule for the tasks included in your care plan.

4. Setting up a safe environment. Home safety becomes especially important if the person in your care is elderly or has physical limitations. For example, grab bars or nonslip rugs help if the person in your care is unsteady while walking or standing. You can find these everyday safety items—and tips for installing them—at many department stores, drugstores, hardware stores, or home-improvement centers. For more home safety tips not covered in this article, check with Safe Kids Worldwide at safekids.org.

Other safety-related matters to consider:

  • Checking that household lighting is adequate, to decrease the risk of falls or other accidents.
  • Checking for hazards such as poisons and medicines, as well as dangerous household products, knives, and razors. Be sure these items are disposed of properly or stored away safely.
  • Lowering the water heater temperature if necessary to avoid burns. Check the water temperature at all water taps to be sure it’s not scalding. You also can install spouts or showerheads that automatically shut off water flow if it’s too hot.
  • Removing items that could cause falls, such as throw rugs, hoses, tools, and electrical cords, and putting them in a safe place.
  • Keeping emergency phone numbers handy.

5. Managing finances. Most people tend to keep their finances private, but the person in your care may need help with paying the bills, balancing the checkbook, investing, or other financial matters. Assisting with these things can be a sensitive matter, so you might start by sitting down with the person in your care to discuss how you can help.

6. Reviewing legal papers. As with finances, helping out with legal documents can be a delicate but important matter to discuss. These legal documents help ensure that the wishes and decisions of the person in your care are carried out. Some of these documents, such as a living will or a power of attorney, will allow you or someone else to act on behalf of the person in your care.

7. Connecting with others. Sometimes, it’s helpful to talk with people who are facing the same challenges. Joining a support group can help you stay positive and informed. You can share your experiences and advice with other caregivers. Some groups meet in person, and others, online. To find a support group near you, try the Help Finder tool.

There may be challenging times ahead, but MerckEngage is here to support you. It provides tips and articles on reducing stress, increasing activity, eating for good health, and other important topics to help new caregivers in caring for someone they love.

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