Caregiver Guide: Caregiving

Understanding The Problem

Caring for an older person at home requires a team of people with different skills and perspectives. Doctors, nurses, social workers, and clergy all make important, specialized contributions, but family members or friends give the day-to-day care.

Your close personal relationship with the person you are caring for helps you to understand and interpret his or her feelings, wishes, and needs. You are also the first to become aware of many physical and emotional problems, the first to deal with those problems, and often are the person who carries out plans that you and other team members develop. As a team member, your job is to work cooperatively with other members of the team-both family and professional-in solving caregiving problems. To do this you need to use the four COPE problem-solving steps:

Creativity by looking for new ways to solve problems,
Optimism by having positive expectations for achieving your goals,
Planning by thinking about the steps you can take to reach your goals, and
Expert Information by asking for guidance from health professionals and people who have dealt with similar problems in the past.

Involve other family members

As much as possible, the older person and the whole family need to be involved in problem-solving. Involve other family members in planning and making decisions, as well as carrying out plans. Give them information and invite them to express their concerns. This can reduce your burden and any criticism by other family members who may not be as directly involved.

Remember that the older person is also a member of the team. His or her participation is essential for plans to succeed. It is also his or her right to be involved.

Emphasize the positive parts of caregiving

Some caregivers see their work as helping someone about whom they care deeply. Others see caregiving spiritually, as part of God's plan for them. Many feel that caregiving has enriched their lives. Others see it as a challenge and want to do the best job they can. And some see caregiving as a way of showing appreciation for the love and care they have received themselves.

Caregiving can have important benefits

Caring for an older person at home can give you a sense of satisfaction and confidence. You will discover inner strengths that you didn't realize you had. Caregiving can draw families together and can help people feel closer to the person who needs care.

You can also use your caregiving to open doors to new friends and relationships. This can happen from talking to other people who have faced the same problems, from meeting people in a support group, from meeting health professionals who showed understanding and concern, and from family members who may have grown distant but who now are drawn together because of this difficult situation.

Your goals are to:

  • Be an effective team member working with doctors, other health professionals, family, and friends in solving caregiving problems
  • Involve the person you are caring for as much as possible in your caregiving plans
  • Take care of your own needs so that you have the emotional and physical strength to be an effective caregiver
  • Call for professional help when needed

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