Being a caregiver is hard. It requires time and patience, selflessness, physical strength, mental strength, and more. Having experienced being a caregiver for my mother, who battled Bile Duct Cancer, I thought I’d share just a few tips I learned during our journey. Hopefully, these tips will be useful if you are or ever will be someone’s caregiver.
12 Ways to be an Awesome Caregiver
Keep them encouraged.
If u can imagine, having a diagnosis of a terminal illness can be incredibly depressing. So can coping with aging, as well as battling any illness. Be a light, offer scripture, or words of encouragement. Outlook is everything. Promoting a positive outlook can truly benefit everyone involved.
Spend Quality Time
Spend quality time with the person you are caring for, not just time caring for them. Participate in activities that are “normal” and that don’t keep the focus on their illness. Enjoy a movie, a stroll outside if possible, or a simple conversation. My mom wanted to go to a baseball game and try to eat a hot dog. Now, I wish we would’ve tried that.
Listen to, and try to really be supportive of what they want to do. Talk with them about their wishes and do your best to honor them. Sometimes, people really just need to feel heard and respected and want their opinions and feelings to be considered.
Use Your Best Judgement
When you are a caregiver, understand that sometimes you may have to consider whether or not the person you are caring for has the ability to make certain decisions for themselves. You may not always have the answer for every situation or solution to every problem, but trust yourself to make the best decision possible.
Understand and Help with Pain Management
Help them to manage their pain and discuss their goals for pain management. Inquire about level of pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Use an alarm as a reminder to administer meds. A caregiver should consult patient’s/loved one’s doctor or medical team for specific instructions.
If they are able, Promote their ability to control certain aspects of their lives. Choosing what to wear, choosing activities to participate in, reading their own cards, sorting their own mail, etc.
Don’t Take Things Personally
Sometimes, when people are ill, on certain medications, are under stress, they may say and or do things that could hurt your feelings if you allow them to. Remain compassionate, empathetic, and forgiving. Ex. They may not have an appetite or refuse food, this doesn’t mean that your cooking is bad.
Be Considerate and Kind
Some things you will see/ have to do/ experience as a caregiver may be less than pleasant. Consider the fact that it is also embarrassing/unpleasant for the person you are caring for. Try to make the situation as easy as possible for them by trying to smile or by being unbothered by the situation.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Personal Maintenance
Keeping hair, skin, nails, teeth, etc. maintained can be very important to your loved ones self confidence. Doing your best to maintain a neat, personal appearance sets the tone for how others may care for your loved one as well.
Sometimes conventional approaches will not work. Practice thinking around obstacles to problems you may face and consider alternative methods to achieving specific goals. Ex. My mom couldn’t hold down solid food well, so we tried homemade smoothies, which she was able to tolerate and actually enjoyed.
As a caregiver, you handle so much. If the person you are caring for has expenses, bills, etc. make a list/spreadsheet of each bill, amount,due dates, how they have been paying, and if possible, try to start paying bills online.
Write everything down, preferably in one place.
If you are the primary person who handles decisions regarding the person you are a caregiver for, consider obtaining power of attorney. (You can download a form online, buy one at an office supplies store, and will need witnesses and a notary to sign)
Take Time to Constantly Take Care of Yourself.
To give the best care, you must be strong mentally, physically, and emotionally. Ask a few trusted friends, family members, church members, etc. to watch over your loved one while you do something for you. Below are two tips that can also promote self care:
Use Available Resources
Seek out available community, state, or government/federal resources which may offer respite care (for caregiver), financial assistance, additional personal care options, prepared meals, light cleaning and home maintenance, transportation, etc.
If you hire out help, take time to interview candidates. Watch their interaction with your loved one and your loved one’s response to them.
Other Practical Tips
Keep absorbency pads handy or around floor
Remove barriers to mobility or clutter in their space
Get a baby monitor so that you can hear if you’re in another room.
Keep them hydrated, consider keeping a table near with water
If you have trusted people coming in to help, consider getting a lock box where you can place spare keys and a code is required to open. Give 2 or 3 trusted people who are helping, the code.
When caring for the elderly or someone with a terminal illness, preparing for that person’s transition can be very difficult, for additional tips visit my post Death of a Loved One .
If there is anything you would add to this list, please comment below!