Choosing to be a caregiver is a wonderful opportunity to help someone you love. Even though caregiving is a rewarding experience, it can also be emotionally and physically draining, which is why you need a strong support system, as well as your parents’ support. As you embark on this new journey, it’s important to be open and honest about your needs as well.
Here are five tips for the new caregiver.
1. Start with an Open, Honest Conversation
Let your parents know that you will be caring for them and helping them meet their needs. All people react differently, so your parents may be grateful or they may be hesitant. Either way, reinforce the fact that they should continue making their own decisions and verbalize their concerns (unless they are incapacitated), and that you will work together as a team.
2. Set Your Priorities
Make a list of the things that will need to get done and how you plan to accomplish them. With an organized plan, you’ll feel more in control and be able to organize additional assistance where needed. Make sure that you have backup plans as well, and share your parents’ schedule with other important people who can help.
3. Build a Strong Support Network
While you may be taking on the role of the main caregiver, you can’t do everything alone. Enlist the help of others such as siblings, nieces, nephews, neighbors and friends. There are many people available to help, but you have to reach out and ask. Remind these people that they are helping you, too, not just your parents.
4. Expect Help from Others
As you build your support network, you’ll find that some people will be more willing to help than others. Don’t let stubborn people off the hook, though. If they don’t want to be involved in the daily caregiving tasks, or they live far away, they can help by paying bills, scheduling doctor appointments and having meals delivered to the home.
5. Hold Family Meetings
You want to keep everyone in the loop when it comes to your parents’ health status, and the best way to do this is by holding family meetings. This approach is more personal, and it keeps everyone on the same page so that no one feels excluded. It’s also a good opportunity to enlist additional help and change around things that may not be working. If you feel that you can’t hold family meetings in a neutral environment, have a geriatric care manager lead the way.