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Eight Tips for Caregivers for National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month. This post offers eight tips for caregivers because their needs matter too.

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.

Below are eight tips for caregivers 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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Beth L. Gainer

Thursday 12th of November 2015

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.

Nancy

Friday 13th of November 2015

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.

Mae

Thursday 12th of November 2015

Your list is perfect!

Nancy

Thursday 12th of November 2015

Mae, Well, thank you! Not perfect, but a starting point perhaps.

Lindsay

Thursday 12th of November 2015

When Josh had surgery a few years ago, a nurse asked me how I was doing. I really appreciated that too and think of it often.

Nancy

Thursday 12th of November 2015

Lindsay, I remember when Josh had that surgery. It's amazing how much asking that simple question can mean to a caregiver. Thanks for sharing that.

Cancer Curmudgeon

Thursday 12th of November 2015

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!!

Nancy

Thursday 12th of November 2015

CC, Yes, I do know how much you loathe the cancer lesson crap! I do too, mostly. Thanks for reading. Glad you like my list.

Elissa Malcohn

Wednesday 11th of November 2015

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.)

Nancy

Thursday 12th of November 2015

Elissa, Thank you for sharing those sites. It's helpful to know where to go for support.

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