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Caregiving Basics

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.

Further Resources

About.com

Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

American Academy of Pediatrics

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

The Cleveland Clinic health information

eMedicineHealth.com

KidsHealth.org

Mayo Clinic

Pollen.com

WebMD


Further Resources

Allergy and Asthma Network - Mothers of Asthmatics, Inc.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

American Lung Association

CDC: asthma's impact on children and adolescents

CDC: how to quit

EPA: asthma and indoor environments

NIH: asthma and physical activity in the school

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Further Resources

American Diabetes Association

Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation

Diabetic Exercise and Sports Association

International Diabetes Federation

NIH: NIDDK diabetes health information

NIH: NIDDK nutrition information

NIH: National Diabetes Education Program

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation


Further Resources

American Council for Headache Education

American Headache Society

National Headache Foundation

New England Center for Headache


Further Resources

American Dietetic Association

Dietary guidelines for americans

Food and nutrition information center

NIH: nutrition information

NIH: weight loss and control

NIH: weight control


Always check with the health care professional before beginning any activity plan or increasing activity. It's also important to ask him or her about target heart rate to help determine appropriate exercise intensity.

Always check with your health care professional before beginning any activity plan or increasing your activity. It's also important to ask him or her what your target heart rate is to help determine what exercise intensity is appropriate for you.

Always be sure to check with your health care professional before beginning any activity plan or increasing your activity.

It always helps to ask:

  • What activities are right for me?
  • How much should I do each day?
  • How many days a week?

It's also important to ask him or her what your target heart rate is to help determine what exercise intensity is appropriate for you.

This information is provided by an independent source. Merck is not responsible for this content. Please discuss any and all treatment options with your healthcare professional. The manufacturer of a product generally has the most complete information about that product.

This information is provided by an independent source. Merck is not responsible for this content. Please discuss any and all treatment options with your healthcare professional. The manufacturer of a product generally has the most complete information about that product.

This information is provided by an independent source. Merck is not responsible for this content. Please discuss any and all treatment options with your healthcare professional. The manufacturer of a product generally has the most complete information about that product.

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Health Coach Call

Listen to an example of what a call might sound like.

PlayNutrition call (7:16)
PlayActivity call (7:22)

Here are some important things to know about your Health Coach Call:

Our Coaches are employed by a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., a pharmaceutical company. The information provided is based on generally available nutrition and physical activity guidelines and information applicable to most people. Health Coaches are not licensed dietitians or health and fitness professionals, and they are not in a position to assess your individual nutrition or activity needs. This information is not appropriate if you are pregnant, and it may not be appropriate if you have specialized dietary needs or limitations on the level of activity or exercise you can safely undertake due to your medical conditions. Consult your health care professional regarding your specific needs, limitations, and health conditions. Health Coaches can educate and coach you on nutritional and physical activity recommendations for the typical person. Health Coaches are not health care professionals and cannot offer medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your health care professional because he or she knows you best. If you have a chronic health condition, check with your health care professional to find out if physical activity is safe before you start. If during your call you have concerns about any condition, special dietary needs, limitations on the level of activity or exercise, any treatments, side effects, or adverse experiences, your Health Coach will refer you to your health care professional.

Activity Points Explained

This Planner uses Activity Points as a way to help you stay motivated and focused on your activity goals. Points are assigned to each activity in the Planner. You'll earn more points when you increase the duration of the activity.

For example, when you bicycle for 15 minutes at a moderate pace (12 to 14 mph), you earn 120 Activity Points. To earn the same number of Activity Points while cycling at a very easy pace (less than 10 mph), you would need to bike for 30 minutes.

If you are currently inactive or get very little activity during the week, a good goal to work toward is 500 Activity Points each week. This is equal to 30 minutes of moderate–intensity aerobic exercise on 5 days a week.

If you are moderately or highly active (more than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week), you may want to aim for up to 1,000 Activity Points each week. This is equivalent to 1 hour of activity on 5 days a week.

What you'll gain

At 500 Activity Points per week: Once you consistently reach this level (ie, 150 minutes of moderate–intensity aerobic activity per week), you may gain substantial health benefits. These benefits include lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression.

At 1,000 Activity Points per week: When you consistently reach this level (ie, 300 minutes of moderate–intensity aerobic activity per week), you may gain even more health benefits. These benefits include a decreased risk of colon and breast cancer and an even lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.