Tips for Family Caregivers

Family members provide a large majority of care for ill, disabled or aging loved ones. Caring for a family member is often accompanied by a unique set of financial, emotional, and physical challenges. Caregiver burnout occurs when a caregiver does not get the help he or she needs and tries to do more than physically or emotionally able. This may be exacerbated by the demands of the holidays. Caregiving is more manageable and more rewarding if you do the following:

  • Take care of yourself physically, emotionally and financially. By taking care of your own well-being, you can provide better care for your loved ones. There are many groups that provide emotional and social support.
  • Make sure legal documents are in place that allow you to make decisions when necessary such as a Durable Power of Attorney for finances, Healthcare Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release and Living Will. If your loved one does not have the capacity to make decisions, a guardianship may be necessary.
  • Identify and use all available resources. Knowledge is power and will help you feel more comfortable in the caregiver roll.
  • Assess your abilities and limitations and know when to enlist outside help or support.
  • Establish open lines of communication with your loved one’s health care providers.
  • Explore sources of payment. Long-term care insurance policies may provide compensation for caregivers. Your loved one may also qualify for federal or state compensation programs.
  • Keep detailed records.
  • Schedule respite care. There are in-home and out-of-home services that offer a safe environment.
  • Promote your loved one’s independence.
  • Regularly communicate with other family members and engage in cooperative caregiving.

If you are in a caregiver situation, look for signs of caregiver burnout, which include withdrawal from friends, loss of interest in activities, feeling blue or hopeless, changes in appetite, changes in sleep, emotional and physical exhaustion, and irritability. You have to take care of your own well-being before you can effectively care for someone else’s well-being. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are all, after all, only human.

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