Caregiving Guidelines

Whatever the specifics of your situation, there are some important basic guidelines to remember when you provide care for a loved one:

  1. Preserve dignity
  2. Involve your loved one
  3. Promote independence
  4. Ask for help
  5. Be an advocate
  6. Take care of yourself

1. Preserve Dignity

Respect your loved one’s right to make decisions about his or her life, and help him or her maintain a sense of control and privacy whenever possible.

  • Listen to what your loved one has to say, and pay attention to his or her worries and concerns.
  • Provide help on your loved one’s terms, not yours. Tasks like dressing and bathing are personal and private.
  • Encourage your loved one to retain as much control over his or her life as possible.
  • Be understanding. Keep in mind that most people feel frustrated or unfairly burdened at some point.

2. Involve Your Loved One

The ability to make decisions 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, etc.), you may have to work harder to provide choices.

3. Promote Independence

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.

  • Encourage any effort at independence, no matter how small.
  • Even if you can do something “quicker and easier” than your loved one, let him or her take care of it if possible.
  • Avoid treating your loved one like a child.

4. Ask for Help

Many caregivers are so accustomed to providing help and seeing to another person’s needs that they don’t know how to ask for aid themselves. Take advantage of the help that’s available.

  • Your family is your first resource. Spouses, brothers and sisters, children, and other relatives can do a lot to ease your caregiving burden. Let them know what they can and should do.
  • Look to your church for aid and counsel. Make your minister or religious leader aware of your situation.
  • Turn to caregiving support groups, or support groups for specific illnesses like Alzheimer’s or heart disease.
  • Encourage your loved one’s friends and neighbors to provide what comfort they can.

5. Be an Advocate

Keep in mind you are a member of your loved one’s health care team, and that your role is as important, if not more important, that anyone else’s. In many cases, you may be the only one equipped to speak out on your loved one’s behalf or to ask difficult questions.

Chances are that none of the health professionals providing care for your loved one will know every aspect of his or her condition at the start. You may need to help with the exchange of information among physicians.

Prepare your loved one’s Personal Health History and take it with you as you accompany the care recipient to appointments. Make sure your loved one’s doctor is aware of what’s on it.

6. Take Care of Yourself

Providing care while holding down a job, running a household, or parenting can lead to exhaustion. If you do become exhausted or sick, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or take out your frustrations in an unfair way.

  • Take advantage of opportunities for respite care.
  • Refresh yourself for the “long haul.” Pay attention to what your body tells you.
  • Be prepared for many potential lifestyle changes (work schedules, social life, money and resources) and evaluate your readiness.

©Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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