Caregiving 101: Where to start

Image: Caregiving 101: Where to start

Welcome to the first post in our Caregiver Tip Tuesdays series, a series dedicated to providing caregivers with helpful tools and tips.

In this session we take a look at some key starting steps to take when becoming a caregiver.

If you're about to embark on the journey of family caregiving you certainly aren't alone, it's estimated that 4-5 million Canadians are providing care for a member of their family who is suffering from a long term health problem. Here are 4 simple steps to help get you started:

  • Understand the diagnosis: As your family member's primary caregiver it is important that you have a solid understanding of their diagnosis. Be sure to ask your family member's doctor or health care team any and all questions that you may have regarding their health and the future state of their condition. Having a thorough understanding of your family member's condition can help you better understand the level of care and time that you will need to commit to caregiving.
  • Assemble a team: Depending on your family member's condition, caring for them may be anywhere from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. It is important to assemble a team of family or friends who can assist you in caregiving so that you do not burn yourself out. To start, make a list of all the tasks that will need to be done (i.e. bathing, feeding etc.) see which tasks can easily be divided up. As the primary caregiver it is best to focus on accepting what assistance people can offer, even if it does not fit the plan you had in mind. Any help is better than no help!
  • Plan for your loved one's future: One of the key factors that often cause anxiety when becoming a caregiver is the uncertainty of the future. A great way to relieve this anxiety is to plan ahead so both you and your loved one are prepared. Take time to speak with your loved one regarding their finances, possessions and last wishes. While these topics are not always the easiest to discuss, having clarity on what your loved one would like in the future will help alleviate future stress or anxiety that may arise.
  • Research, Research, Research: Not only is it important to understand your family member's diagnosis but it also helps to research about resources and programs in the community that can be of assistance to you. Whether its adult day programs, home care services or community services such as Meals on Wheels, knowing the programs or resources are available to you can dramatically help your family member as well as you as a caregiver. Make sure to also research activities or support groups for yourself too. As the primary caregiver your health and stability is vital to your ability to care for your loved one.

Next week's topic: Keeping your loved one independent


Canadian Care Givers Association: Caregiver Facts, August 2008

Family Caregivers Association; Fact Sheet: Caregiving