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Eight tips for caregivers

National Family Caregivers Month – Eight Tips for Caregivers

November is National Family Caregivers Month. Have you ever been a caregiver? Have you ever been on the receiving end of caregiving? I have experienced both sides of this particular “coin” and in some ways, being a caregiver is a lot harder. Along with my dad and my siblings, I was a caregiver for my mother during her illness. And of course, when diagnosed with cancer myself, I was the one in need of a caregiver from time to time. Most of us have been or will be a caregiver at some point in our lives. 

If you are caring for a loved one due to any reason such as a serious illness, an injury or merely aging, at times it can feel overwhelming.  In addition, finding the support you need as a caregiver isn’t t always easy to do, and even when you do find it, carving out time to utilize or implement it isn’t easy either.

On a side note, when I was doing chemo, there was one chemo nurse who asked Dear Hubby how he was doing every single time she saw us. That simple question was so validating for him. He told me many times how much it  meant to him and even now, he comments on it from time to time. It’s kind of sad that something so simple doesn’t happen all that often.

If you are a caregiver, or if you know someone who is, here are a few simple tips that might be helpful. I hope you’ll share your tips with a comment at the end of this post.

1.  Remember your situation is unique.

Don’t waste time trying to mold yourself, or your situation, into something you or it is not. You are not your neighbor. You are not your sibling. You are not your best friend. You are you and there is only one way to do this too and that’s your way.

2.  When caregiving, you simply must still take care of your needs too. You still count.

Obviously, it’s important for you to eat properly, get enough rest and squeeze in some exercise when you can. IMO, rest is most critical of all because if you are reasonably well rested, the other stuff can more easily fall into place. You need to take breaks to take care of you, and this includes taking some breaks to do fun/relaxing things too.

3.  Don’t try to do it all.

There are no “super-star caregiver awards” either. Take help when it’s offered. When it isn’t, ask for it if at all possible. Here’s one list of resources. There are many others.

4.  Keep notebooks handy to write down stuff from A-Z.

When tired and/or stressed, it’s even harder than usual to remember things, so make lists for anything and everything. Write down questions to take to doctor appointments. Record medication information, dosages and the like. Write down whatever you might forget that is important to you or the person you are caring for. There are some caregiver apps for some of this stuff if you’re into that.

5.  Get organized or at least more organized.

This is hard. Believe me, I know because I am not an organized person. But try to set up (and label) files, or at least bins, so you have somewhere to put all those papers that seem to accumulate. Don’t let things just pile up on your counter.

6.  Remember you are not alone. Find support; it’s there.

Some people say, stay off the internet. Not me. I would never say that. There is lots of information and there are many places to find support online. Why not utilize it? And connecting with other caregivers is essential, especially if your care giving role will be for the long haul. Some people prefer online support. Some prefer face-to-face support groups. Some like both. Do what works for you. For one starting point, check out Caregiver Action Network. 

7.  Learn everything you can about your loved one’s condition, situation, prognosis, needs, wants, dislikes, likes, wishes, etc.

And then start advocating on her/his behalf whenever you both decide it’s appropriate.

8.  Do your best. It’s enough. Really, it is.

You can’t do it all. So ditch the guilt and just do your best.

So those are my tips for caregivers.

What are yours?

Have you been a caregiver, or are you one now?

Have you been on the receiving end of caregiving?

What advice would you offer?

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8 Tips for #Caregivers #caregiver #family #illness

14 thoughts on “National Family Caregivers Month – Eight Tips for Caregivers

  1. This topic is important to me because my fiancé is my caregiver and he has no one to reach out to (he is also too busy with work and other stuff). I think prioritization is important. Sometimes it’s hard to focus on only one thing so we juggle with every task making the experience more exhausting.

    I was a caregiver for a short period of time for my aunt and my grandmother. It was very hard and I often forgot to watch out for myself so I lost weight and ran out of energy. I felt out of control too, like I really wanted to change things, without realizing things were out of my control and all I could was bring comfort and support. My aunt survived, thank God! But it was hard watching her go through chemo for her leukemia. Both were patients in the Dominican Republic so resources were lacking creating a more stressful situation for all of us. It is all worth it because we love them.

    I have been a caregiver for three of my pets. I found these experiences to be even harder because 1) they were my babies and 2) they couldn’t speak. And finally, I had to make the decision to end their pain. I am sure you are familiar with these struggles.

    Thank you for these tips, Nancy.

    1. Rebecca, Care giving always involves plenty of juggling I guess. I’m glad your fiance is there for you, it’s so important to have someone to lean on. It must have been really hard to watch your aunt and grandmother go through all that. I’m sorry your grandmother didn’t survive. And yes, pets… we are caregivers for them too. Yes, I am familiar with those struggles, too, as are many of us. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks for this post, Nancy. I am a cancer patient (since 2014) and a caregiver (since 2001) simultaneously. In my experience, being a caregiver is far harder. These sites have helped me:

    http://www.caregiving.com — very active grassroots network. Holds #carechat tweet chats on alternate Sunday nights. Has podcasts, webinars, forums, groups, chats, and other resources.

    http://thecaregiverspace.org/ — another excellent grassroots network. Also has webinars, forums, etc.

    http://www.caregiver.com — more corporate than the other two but also a good source of support. Sponsors one-day Fearless Caregiver Conferences across the US, free to family caregivers. (I attended a conference in 2011.)

  3. As much as I loathe the cancer lessons crap (as you know!), I admit that being the recipient of caregiving during cancer has been of enormous help as I give care now. I KNOW what it’s like to not want to eat, to be sooooo tired, etc. Great list!!

  4. Nancy,

    This is a really good post on an important topic. Unfortunately, the caregiver is often ignored in our society, and it’s so difficult to be one. Caregivers deserve to be cared about, too! I’m glad that chemo nurse asked your husband how he was doing, as well.

    As you know, I was a caregiver for many years in my former marriage. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Then I got cancer and was a caregiver simultaneously. That was exceedingly difficult. Even though my marital life deprived me of being cared for, my doctors and nurses became my caregivers. They took care of me as if I was their family member.

    I was lucky to have such a wonderful team in place at the darkest time of my life.

    1. Beth, Caregivers are too often ignored. I’m so glad you had a team of people who stepped up and became your caregivers, and they cared for you like you were a family member, that’s pretty amazing. Thank you for sharing that.

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