Most new caregivers are thrust into the role of Caregiver and are not fully prepared for the new role or how to assess the situation. Please don’t do it all alone! Caregiving is a long-term commitment. If you have family, discuss with them who can provide local support willingly, without compromising their own daily lives and livelihoods. It is important to understand your caregiving situation so you can plan.
Step back and observe
It’s instinctive to want to address every one of your older adult’s needs, especially if you’re a new family caregiver, but first taking a step back and understanding three key areas can help you work smarter, not harder.
If you take on too much and burn out physically or emotionally, you can’t help your older adult or yourself.
- Assess your older adult’s needs
Family caregivers can take on different roles based on your older adult’s physical and mental capabilities. The first step is getting a full picture of how much help your older adult needs with activities of daily living (ADLs). This will help you decide if their current living situation is safe and what level of daily help is needed – for them and for you.
- Be realistic about your own capacity
While you want to do as much as you can for your older adult, you still have your own life to manage. Be realistic and understand what you can take on without burning yourself out. For example, if you live an hour away and have existing work and family commitments, it’s not practical to commit to making your older adult’s dinner every day. Or, if your loved one has increasing memory loss issues, at some point they cannot be left home alone.
- Get the help you need
Make a list of areas where you’re going to need help. As an example, getting help with cooking or cleaning for your older adult, or even yourself, saves a ton of time and energy. Investing in hired help or adult day programs can help you balance your older adult’s needs and your own time and energy. When people ask how they can help, check your list for an answer before you default to “It’s ok. I’m fine. I can manage.”
Bottom line: Taking a step back and understanding the overall caregiving situation will give you much-needed perspective. Be realistic and plan how much you can do yourself versus how much extra help will be needed. Remember, caregiving is a long-term commitment so you need to pace yourself.