An Introduction to Care Giving
If you’re a new care giver, chances are you feel as though your world has been turned upside-down. Taking on that responsibility can leave anyone feeling lost, helpless, and alone in the face of a remarkable challenge.
The good news is you’re never alone. Many people around the country graciously take on these responsibilities every day with the help and guidance of professionals lighting the way. Here at Culbertson Memorial Hospital, we’re proud to educate new caregivers on what to expect from this chapter of their lives and how to best care for loved ones and themselves alike.
Duties of a caregiver
A caregiver’s responsibilities can vary according to the ailment of the care receiver. According to caregiver.org, some common responsibilities may include the following:
- Completing common household tasks like cleaning the house, doing laundry, or ordering/picking up groceries
- Help the care receiver accomplish basic tasks such as showering or bathing, getting dressed, and taking medication
- Moving your loved one out of bed or from a seat, assisting with physical therapy sessions, and performing medical interventions like injections, feeding tubes, wound and breathing treatment, and more
- Scheduling medical appointments, driving the care receiver to their healthcare provider, sitting in on appointments, and monitoring medications
- Speaking directly with healthcare providers to better understand next steps and future treatments
- Spending time handling crises and arranging for assistance
- Handling finances and any legal matters such as power of attorney
- Being a companion and aide to your loved one at all times
First steps for new caregivers Once you accept the role of a caregiver, you may be wondering how to proceed with this new reality. First, you’ll need to accept your role as caregiver and identify yourself as such. Make sure you get a clear diagnosis of your loved one’s condition and learn what skills you will need to maintain a positive quality of life for them.
Communicate with your loved one and make sure you understand their wishes as far as finances and legal matters are concerned — this includes filling out paperwork like advance directives and powers of attorney. Discuss condition status and treatments with family and friends — and continue to do so through every step of treatment. Finally, identify personal and community resources that can make treatment and care easier for both you and the care receiver. This includes finding resources to support both yourself and the care receiver.
Caring for the caregiver
As is true with anything, self-care should never take a backseat. There may be times where you feel stressed or overwhelmed, which is natural. Caregiver burden — or caregiver stress — is a common condition relating to the emotional, physical, and mental stress of caregiving. As you start your journey as a caregiver, make sure you take care of yourself just as you take care of your loved one. This includes any of the following steps:
- Identify someone who you can talk to about any feelings or emotions you need to communicate.
- Set realistic goals for both yourself and the care receiver. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — take advantage of respite care services.
- Be realistic about your loved one’s condition and accept that nursing services or assisted living may be a possibility in the future. You should also be realistic about your own abilities — understand that it’s OK for you to say “no” sometimes.
- Take care of yourself just as you normally would. Make sure you eat right, get plenty of exercise, and get a good night’s sleep. Identify what stresses you and what coping mechanisms you will need. If needed, talk to a professional.
Remember — you’re never alone. Becoming a caregiver can dramatically change your life, but resources to help you adjust to your new role are always within reach.