Family caregivers consist of relatives, neighbors and friends that take on caregiving responsibilities for a senior in need of higher levels of attention and care. Proper preparation and conducting research can help you adapt to this new phase of your life much more effectively. Here are a few tips to being the best caregiver you can be for your loved one.
First and foremost, get support.
The most important thing as you go through this difficult process is the knowledge that you are not alone. According to Caregiver.com, “The most important thing is for caregivers to not become isolated as they take on more responsibility and as social life moves into the background. Online and in-person groups can be very helpful in connecting with others in the same circumstances.” Do some research and decide which support group best fits your needs and reach out to them.
Learn to be flexible.
No two days are the same as a caregiver. In order to be an effective caregiver, you will need to learn how to adapt to new situations as they arise and get used to juggling multiple lines of communication between medical professionals and family members at once. A publication by the National Center for Biotechnology Information titled Families Caring for an Aging America notes that, “Despite many common experiences, caregivers’ roles are highly variable across the course of caregiving.” Some variables that will affect the nature of your caregiving experience include the diversity of your family, the timing of entry into the role of the caregiver and more.
Be prepared for a certain amount of “Transfer Trauma.”
One of the hardest aspects of becoming a family caregiver is the transfer trauma that you and your loved one will likely have to face. As certain complications may arise, your loved one will need to be moved to a different care program or facility and it will take a toll on your mental health. Families Caring for an Aging America discusses that, “Caregiving for older adults occurs across all the settings in which care is delivered and often involves interacting with numerous providers, back- and-forth transitions from hospital to home or rehabilitation facility, move to a senior residence or assisted living facility, placement in a nursing home, and ultimately end-of-life care.” If you have successfully completed the first two steps, you will be able to look internally and externally for the strength to handle “Transfer Trauma.”
Accept that you do not know everything.
It is natural to feel helpless over your shortcomings or a lack of knowledge on what you are supposed to do for your loved one. NetOfCare discusses that, “It is normal for you to feel nervous or overwhelmed about what is expected of you. You may experience a number of mixed emotions including anxiety, anger, and sadness.” The most important step to ensuring you do not experience feelings of depression or anxiety is acceptance that you do not have to know everything to be a good caregiver. There are a plethora of support groups and resources that you can reach out to for help with the things you do not know how to do.
At Renaissance Home Health Care and Adult Day Services, we understand the relationship between a caregiver and a senior is sacred. Our Executive Director, Eileen Parenti, summarized the relationship perfectly by saying, “As seniors get older, they come to need their caregiver for everything from being a positive influence on their day to helping them with the most intimate needs imaginable. While it can be a huge challenge, the benefits of knowing that you are the reason why your loved one is able to remain as healthy and happy as possible is the best reward you can ask for.”