Caregiving Basics

What is a caregiver? What does a caregiver do? Here are some things to think about as you begin your own caregiving process.

What Is A Caregiver?

A caregiver is a person who provides needed help to an aging or infirmed loved one. Caregivers may supply emotional support, physical assistance, financial assistance, and many other types of care. Regardless of the situation, there are several guidelines to consider when you provide care for an adult friend or relative:

The Person You Care For Is An Adult.

He or she has the right to make decisions about his or her life. You should respect that right unless your loved one has lost the capacity to make decisions or could put others in danger through his or her behavior.

Whenever Possible, Offer Choices.
The ability to make choices is a basic freedom, so provide choices whenever possible: from where to live to which cereals to eat at breakfast to what to wear. Choices enable us to express ourselves. As your loved one’s options become more limited, through health losses, financial constraints, or social losses, you have to work harder to provide choices.

Do Only Those Things That Your Loved One Cannot Do.

Caregivers often take over when they shouldn’t. If your loved one is still capable of performing certain activities, such as paying bills or cooking meals, then encourage him or her to do so. Helping your loved one maintain a feeling of independence will make him or her feel better about being in a care-receiving situation.

Be Sure To Do What You Promise To Do.

Many care recipients find it emotionally difficult to have to depend on others, and many worry about being a burden. So, with all these mixed feelings, your loved one will need to be able to rely on you. Do what you promise. Remember that your loved one needs you, even if he or she doesn’t say so.

Take Care Of Yourself.

This may seem obvious, but caregivers often exhaust themselves by trying to handle caregiving responsibilities on top of normal daily routines. Providing care for a loved one while holding down a job, can lead to exhaustion. If you do become exhausted, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or to take out your frustrations on your loved one. So take care of yourself; take time out to do things you enjoy even if it means saying no to your loved one. Caregivers who refresh themselves can be there for the long haul.

Your Family Is The First Resource.

There can be deep emotional currents when a loved one becomes ill. Some family members will want to do everything, while others will do very little unless they’re asked. Yet spouses, brothers and sisters, children, and other relatives can do much to ease your caregiving burden.

©Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Adapted from the DOD Caregiver’s Guide developed by the United States Department of Defense.

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