10 Tips for Caregivers

National Family Caregivers Month is a time to honor caregivers and their selflessness. It is also a time to recognize the real challenges of caring for a loved one on a short or long-term basis – from lack of sleep to financial costs. To help guide you or a caregiver you know through this stressful time, here are ten essential tips for being a caregiver:

  1. Make time for exercise. Exercise is crucial to maintaining your health, boosting your mood and buoying your energy levels while caring for a loved one.
  2. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that you are shouldering what may be an unprecedented amount of responsibility. The extra time it takes to caregive may mean less time spent keeping your home perfectly neat. Try to let a few things go.
  3. Talk to a doctor. You will be talking to doctors about your loved one’s condition(s), but you should also discuss your own health regularly. Caregivers sometimes miss their own doctor’s appointments to be available for their loved one’s appointments. Be vigilant about looking out for your own health.
  4. Don’t go it alone. Only 10 percent of primary caregivers feel that the role is shared equally. All siblings should step up to help, experts agree. Read the AARP’s tips on getting along with family during this time.
  5. Keep a sense of humor. Alexandra Detweiler, whose 54-year old mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, often found herself in situations where she had one simple choice: to laugh or cry. She says “although we took the initial diagnosis and prognosis seriously, my mom looked at the situation with such an infectious sense of humor, laughing and smiling throughout the entire journey.”
  6. Find a support group. Others who have been in your shoes or dealt with the same illness can give encouragement and advice that regular friends might not be able to provide.
  7. Take life day by day. Some caregivers are used to planning life out months in advance. This is often not possible when a friend or loved one’s condition can change unpredictably.
  8. Reflect on healthy times.
  9. Learn what care really equates to. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association and Red Cross lead classes on caregiving, and hospitals may have classes about the specific disease that afflicts your loved one.
  10. Remember that caregiving is rewarding. Caring.com finds that 75% of caregivers feel a sense of pride in making a difference in the quality of life of a loved one. The old adage rings true: “We rise by lifting others.”

Sources and Resources:

AARP Caregiving Resource Center
National Alliance for Caregiving
7 Tried-and-True Ways to Avoid Caregiver Burnout (Huffington Post)
Valuable Lessons I Wish I Never Had To Learn: 10 Pieces of Advice for a Young Caregiver
Kindred Healthcare Pinterest: Caregiving

By Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services