New to Being a Family Caregiver? Tips for Adjusting to the Role

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The role of family caregiver creates an adjustment period for both parties, and can be especially difficult for those juggling a career and other caretaking responsibilities.

A diagnosis may well have been suspected, or maybe you felt broadsided, with a diagnosis coming out of the blue. Mom has just received the official diagnosis for a progressive disease that’s likely to make independent life a challenge. While there are a lot of uncertainties, one thing is for sure: she’s adamant about remaining at home – meaning you’ll have some decisions to make on how to provide for the care she’ll need.

Welcome to the world of family caregiving! If you’re feeling a bit stressed and uneasy about what can be expected, those feelings are common among those adjusting to being a family caregiver. The following tips will help:

  • Learn as much as you are able to about the disease. The senior’s physician can provide you with resources and educational materials to help you know what to anticipate and also to increase confidence in your caregiving role.
  • Prioritize organization. Purchase a folder in which to store important paperwork: test results, prescription details, contact information for physicians’ offices and other providers, and any other pertinent medical information. Start a journal to help track any changes in condition or concerns that arise, along with the details surrounding those changes. For many conditions, identifying triggers is an important part of managing symptoms, and establishing notetaking habits will help.
  • Put aside past hurts. A new diagnosis could cause old family dynamics to resurface. If unresolved issues are interfering with your ability to provide the best care, the support of a professional therapist can help effectively work through these common emotional challenges.
  • Determine boundaries together. Talk to your family member about how much and what kind of assistance would be beneficial. It’s natural to want to step in and take over, however it’s important for the older adult to maintain as much control and independence as possible.
  • Take care of yourself, too. Your own health and wellbeing are incredibly important. And, the degree of care you provide can be affected if your own needs are not being met. Prioritize and designate time each day for self-care by seeking out and accepting help from others.

It’s important to be informed about the increased risk for depression and caregiver burnout that family caregivers experience and to take steps immediately if you start to experience warning signs such as:

  • Increased anxiety, agitation, and irritability
  • Withdrawing from social interactions
  • Decreased interest in once-enjoyed activities
  • Resentment
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulties falling or staying asleep
  • Challenges with concentration and focus
  • Fatigue

Identifying a reliable care partner will provide you with the time needed for you to see a physician for a checkup to rule out any other possible health problems you may be experiencing, to speak with a therapist to effectively work through the many emotions involved in caregiving, and also to relax and recharge.

The care professionals at Golden Harmony are available with additional resources for senior care in Cary in surrounding areas, including companionship, respite care and other in-home care services that allow for a healthy life balance. Contact us at 919-426-7522 for a free in-home consultation. See our full service area.

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