Starting out as a caregiver can be intimidating. It’s common to feel alone, unprepared and overwhelmed by the new role. These feelings are normal and may continue well into your role as a caregiver. The best way to reduce these feeling is to be prepared for what is ahead.
While every caregiving role is different and each family faces their own unique challenges, there are some general strategies that can be applied for most caregivers that will help to navigate your future as a caregiver. This article outlines 6 steps to get you started.
1. Get a Medical Assessment for Your Loved one
Before embarking on your role as a caregiver, it’s important to get your loved one a full medical examination from a professional. This assessment should review both physical and mental health. This is vital for determining the most appropriate treatment options, identifying any risks that are likely to occur, and making a comprehensive plan for the future. Worrying symptoms that you have noticed may, in fact, turn out to be something that can be remedied, such as an infection, a mineral deficiency or more.
2. Inform Yourself
Information is key to succeeding as a caregiver. Information can be obtained from doctors, and health professionals, as well as from others who are going through or have been through, similar experiences. In addition, there are many useful books, brochures and online resources that are available on a wide variety of caregiving topics. Arming yourself with knowledge will help to boost your confidence in your ability to handle the caregiving role. It may also reduce any anxiety that you are experiencing relating to the role.
3. Identify the Needs of Your Loved One
Once you have a proper diagnosis and information on your loved one’s condition, you are in the best position to determine the amount and type of assistance needed by your loved one. Every situation is different, and some of the things to be considered may include personal care, such as bathing, nutrition and grooming, household tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping, healthcare such as managing appointments and medication, and the emotional side of caregiving, which includes companionship and organising activities.
It’s important to include the person you are caring for when drawing up this plan, where possible. After all, they are going to live with it. Identifying their allergies, likes and dislikes, among other things, can avoid distress or anger.
4. Outline a Caregiving Plan
Once your loved one has received a diagnosis and you have identified their needs, you can then create a care plan. This can be done with the help of other family members, other members of the care team, or medical professionals who are involved in providing care for your loved one. The caregiving plan should outline all of the things that need to be done, when they need to be done and who is responsible for carrying out the task. Try to incorporate a contingency plan that can be implemented in the event that one of the caregivers is unable to carry out their role at a particular time. Also, bear in mind that the caregiving plan should be flexible, and adaptable as your loved one’s needs change.
5. Look for Support
Support from others in the same circumstances is invaluable to caregivers. There are many support groups that are set up for caregivers to connect them with others in a similar situation. The people you meet in a support group can provide social and emotional support, as well as offer practical information and advice. These groups can also become a safe place where caregivers can discuss frustrations and concerns, and learn more strategies to assist with the caregiving role. Support groups are often set up by local community organisations; however, they are often also available online if it is too difficult to attend in person while also managing the other responsibilities in your life.
6. Look After Yourself
This may be one of the last steps on the list but it is one of the most important. Caregiving is a difficult role, particularly for carers looking after a person with Dementia. Studies have shown that caregivers are more likely to be at risk for a number of conditions than non-caregivers; including depression, heart disease, high blood pressure and other chronic illnesses. This risk increases more for caregivers who are caring for a person with Dementia. Taking simple steps to look after yourself can act as preventative healthcare that will improve your overall health, as well as your ability to provide care for your loved one. These steps include incorporating exercise and physical movement into your daily routine, eating well, getting enough sleep, taking time for yourself and looking after your own health.
We know that caregiving is a difficult but rewarding role. If you’re new to caregiving, a Brain Sparks workshop may help to ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed with the role as it arms you with advice and practical strategies to help with some of the responsibilities that you have taken on. For more information on how we can help, don’t hesitate to get in touch.