Providing care for loved ones who are unable to help themselves is a tough job. Whether they are chronically ill or seriously injured with a long recovery period ahead, the task requires resiliency and dedication. At times, it can make the caregiver feel like they lost their old life. Here are ten tips for caring for an ailing family member or friend:
1. Continue on with your own social life as much as possible. As a caregiver, it is easy to feel that you have to be with your family member at all times. However, if you cannot take the time to restore yourself, eventually, you will be worn out. Know your limits and stick to them so that you can remain mentally and physically healthy enough to provide care.
2. Research your loved one’s illness or injury. It helps to know as much as possible about what you are dealing with. Request information from their doctors if you are allowed to. Do your own research online, but don’t trust that everything you read will apply to your situation. Use your research only as guidance as you speak with their doctors.
3. Strengthen the bond between yourself and your loved one. Sometimes caring for someone else brings about awkward situations. In order to get past the awkwardness, there needs to be trust. To develop this trust, communicate with them often by listening and replying calmly. Express empathy and compassion when it is needed. Make eye contact and talk to them about things other than the illness or injury.
4. Include other family members in the care plan. Spending 24 hours a day with someone will be taxing for both of you. Your family member needs to experience other people’s care. Also, for safety reasons, more than one person should be aware of the timing of medications, appointments, baths, and other pertinent information.
5. Maintain confidentiality. Personal issues may come up in caring for someone else. If they request that it remain between the two of you, honor that request. There is also a legal standpoint in which the caregiver should not have access to all medical information for the family member unless they specifically allow it. The only information a caregiver should know is the plan of care they will currently be providing.
6. Consider other members of the household’s needs as well. As an example, if a child is sick, try to avoid upsetting the daily schedules of the other children in the family. Once in awhile, it can’t be avoided, but be sure it does not become a regular occurrence. All children need stability and structure and adults need to be able to make their own schedules.
7. Encourage your loved one to be independent when they can. Doing things for themselves may help your family member become more confident. Studies have shown that people who are active in their own care are more likely to search for health information and use it to be healthier.
8. Trust your gut. If you feel that progress is not being made or notice a change in the your loved one’s mental or physical health, do not be afraid to bring up your uncertainty with them or their doctor.
9. Be patient. Caring for someone else is frustrating at times, especially when the caregiver and the family members personalities are closely matched. Remember to breathe and take little time-outs when needed.
10. Check for services to help make life easier. Transportation services, local home health services and meal delivery programs can be life-savers. Many services can be partially covered by your family member’s insurance or will scale based on their ability to pay. You don’t have to manage every aspect of your loved ones care alone.
Do you have any other helpful tips you want to share with our readers? Let us know in the comments section below!