Family caregivers play essential roles in the lives of ailing loved ones. Whether you have a family member experiencing the effects of aging, or if someone you love is suffering from a debilitating illness or injury, you may find yourself providing care to the person over a period of time or suddenly when there’s an accident or sudden illness.
As you probably already know, being a caregiver is rarely easy. In fact, it can be one of the most challenging tasks you ever take on in your life. Additionally, many people don’t discuss the numerous challenges that face caregivers, which can make the experience rather lonely. Accordingly, here are a few key things to keep in mind that can help as you navigate your role.
You will most likely accompany your loved one to medical appointments and doctor’s visits. This is the perfect opportunity for you to get acquainted with the person’s medical history, which can inform future treatments and care. You should also play an involved role during these visits by asking questions and advocating on behalf of your family member.
Technology can also help you be prepared as a caregiver. A free app like DrOwl can help by enabling users to easily add their medical records from doctors, specialists, VA medical facilities, Medicare, and numerous other providers. This app also allows you and your loved one to access physician-trusted resources, which will help you gain a greater understanding of their specific conditions and medications. DrOwl also allows you to easily add important medical documents, such as healthcare directives so that everything is accessible and shareable from one simple place. Easy access to medical records and documents is especially crucial during emergency situations.
Recognize that the person you’re caring for is likely to have good days and bad days. Accordingly, you will experience many challenges, and you may even feel like you’re not doing as good a job as you could be. Remember that the work you do is vital to the person in your care. In addition to ensuring their health needs are met, you’re also providing essential camaraderie and support.
Not everyone makes the same decisions when it comes to end-of-life care. For instance, your loved one may choose to forgo life-prolonging treatments in their advanced directive, and they’ll look to you to honor their decisions. While it can be painful to think about, a part of caregiving is advocating on behalf of your loved one when they’re unable to do it on their own. This helps ensure that others, including medical staff and family members, also honor their wishes.
Although it can feel lonely being a caregiver, you don’t have to go it alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance when needed, even if that simply means venting to a trusted friend or loved one, joining a support group, or even looking for help from the community.
As hard as it may be, you must also find time for the things that fulfill and sustain you. Without taking time for yourself, you face a risk of caregiver burnout. Not only will burnout affect you, but it could also prevent you from providing quality care to your loved one.
On challenging days, you may feel at odds with the person you’re caring for. They may lash out at you if they feel they lack control over their life or are frustrated by what’s happening to them. And your relationships may become strained both with them and potentially with other family members. Know that you’re doing incredibly important work and that the person you’re caring for loves and appreciates what you’re doing for them, even if they don’t always show it. And if other relationships are affected by your responsibilities, open communication is the best way to address these issues.
Every caregiver’s situation is different. However, you must remember that you’re not alone. You must also remember that you’re strong and you can overcome these and many other obstacles. When you’re feeling stressed and worried, try to take things day-by-day and know that you’ll be able to figure it out as you go.