11 Tips Caregivers Need to Know

By: Emily MacMillan

March 22, 2023

Caregiver helping loved one

Becoming a caregiver or playing a more active role in another’s healthcare is a big responsibility. At some point, almost all adults will support an aging parent or a loved one in need. Keeping track of their needs and wellbeing, while also prioritizing your own can become overwhelming. It’s important to know: you are not alone, and help is available.

Read on for 11 tips to help you manage your time, your own wellbeing and your loved one’s care.

  1. Self-care comes first. When your main priority is the person in your life who needs care, it’s easy for your own needs to take the backseat. Give yourself time each day to focus on your personal wellbeing. It’s hard to give a loved one the care they need if your own needs are not met.
  2. Prioritize the Activities of Daily Living (ADL). Make a note of what ADLs your loved one can do alone, what they need help with and what activities require the most help. This will help you work through the day with them, as well as plan out how the day’s activities will go.
  3. Do a home safety audit. Do showers, bathtubs and steps have safety grab bars? Look around the house for additional tripping hazards, like rugs or electrical cords. If your loved one struggles with day-to-day navigation of the home, consider scheduling an occupational therapy appointment. This type of therapy helps a person develop or maintain the motions required to accomplish daily tasks. You might also qualify for a referral to in-home healthcare, such as Home Care.
  4. Have the hard conversation. The best time to discuss views about end of life care and to learn what choices are available is before a life-limiting illness or crisis occurs. With advance care planning, you can help reduce the doubt and anxiety related to decision making at the end of life. Completing an Advance Directive is a great tool to sort out all these decisions before they’re needed. Attend a free workshop to learn more and complete this important document.
  5. Identify when you need respite. Respite care involves receiving a short-term break from caregiving. Organizing in-home care for your loved one will allow you to step away and tend to your needs. By identifying what kind of respite care you are seeking, you can find the right person to provide you with that much-needed break. Don’t wait until you feel overwhelmed, plan ahead.
  6. Write down insurance contact information. Have a direct connection to the right insurance professional for support and advice. If your loved one is eligible Medicare, this is a good opportunity to review their current selections and if they would benefit from a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Supplement Insurance. Seeking out expert advice or information on Medicare options is a great way to navigate this. Consider calling a broker, or attend a free educational seminar with Senior Care Plus.
  7. Gather legal and financial information. Make a list of all existing legal documents and financial accounts that your loved one has. These might include a will, advance directive, power of attorney, bank accounts or investment accounts. If you have questions about how to manage them, or need assistance in setting up additional framework, reach out to a lawyer, legal service, financial adviser or bank representative.
  8. Create an inventory of medical information. Identify where all of your loved one’s medical records are, as well as a list of providers or healthcare practices where they have received care. Consider if you should have your loved one give you Proxy Access in MyChart, which allows you to access all the features in MyChart on their behalf, including viewing upcoming appointments, viewing test results and emailing a doctor on their behalf.
  9. Make a list of what others can do. Think about all the little (and big) things that need to happen, and write down tasks that others could take care of you. When someone says “let me know what I can do” you’ll be ready with a pre-written list of items they may be able to assist with. Tasks could include tackling around-the-house repairs, scheduling lawn work, helping to walk the dog, taking a car for an oil change and cleaning.
  10. Find programs and events for social enjoyment. If and when possible, seek an activity outside of the home. Look for community centers that have programs for seniors, recreational activities or meals that you can patriciate in together. If leaving the home is not an option, arrange for visits or in-home activities, such as movie nights, card games or time to visit with family.
  11. Research long-term options. If you will be considering a nursing home or assisted living, make a list of amenities that you and the person you are caring for would like. Take this list with you when visiting potential locations to make sure you don’t forget to ask about each item.

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