What if starting today, you learned caregiving was YOUR new role? Do you have the answers every new caregiver needs?
What would be your first question?
And, what if the caregiving would go on for a whole month?
What about two months?
Would you be looking for more resources? Or are you confident you could do it all on your own? Would you feel determined?
And then, would you wonder if you could ever have peace again?
That’s a lot to think about!
As a registered nurse, I see many, many people respond to the role of NEW CAREGIVER much like someone receiving the news of a new pregnancy.
They experience shock, confusion, and an inability to take it all in. They have hundreds of questions.
It’s no wonder because, like pregnancy, so often the news of a new caregiver role is entirely unexpected!
More and more people are finding themselves in a position of caregiving. Whether it be for a spouse, parent or friend, the numbers of caregivers are increasing.
You are not alone!
According to the Family Caregiving Alliance, “about 44 million Americans provide 37 billion hours of unpaid, ‘informal’ care each year for adult family members and friends with chronic illnesses or conditions that prevent them from handling daily activities such as bathing, managing medications or preparing meals on their own.”
Caregivers are the patient’s lifeline.
Therefore, three critical questions should be asked AND ANSWERED early to help arm you for the potentially long journey as a new caregiver.
Three Questions To Answer As a New Caregiver (Perfect for Seasoned Caregivers Too!)
1. Do I Have Enough Emotional Support for my New Caregiver Role?
This one is THE FIRST and most critical question.
Unfortunately, it is also the one that is most often ignored and can lead to loneliness or jealousy.
SET UP TIMES TO BE AWAY FROM CAREGIVING DUTIES!
Like anything else you do, everything goes better when you are in a positive and healthy state of mind. Over time, the stress, duties, and pressures of long-term caregiving can hide the essence of who you are and what makes you unique.
It may seem like there is no time for this, but it is imperative. Caregiving, especially caregiving for people with dementia, is one of the top sources of very high levels of stress. Stress management is essential. And, most importantly, stress management doesn’t just help the caregiver but can slow the progression of the patient’s dementia.
2. Get answers every new caregiver needs – Who is my healthcare provider partner?
While it is true that many people who start receiving caregiving services have been recently hospitalized or seen by a provider, some have not. And some of these people haven’t been seen by a provider in months, or years.
SET UP AN APPOINTMENT with a primary care provider (known as a family practice provider or an internal medicine provider). These offices are especially good at helping new caregivers.
After that, be sure to connect with the provider’s medical assistant or nurse to let them know you are new to your caregiving role and will be calling with questions.
On the other hand, it may be appropriate as the caregiver to see the provider if it is too complicated to bring the patient to the office.
Some patients have multiple providers already involved in their care. Depending on the situation, initially, it may be more appropriate to stay connected with a disease or injury specific provider office.
Over time, it may then make more sense to communicate with a primary care provider as specialty care discharges off of the case.
This step may seem unimportant, however, if there is an illness or change in health, a quick call to a familiar provider can save you a lot of time, energy and thousands of dollars in ambulance transit care or emergency room charges. This one is a must do step.
Additionally, if you do not have a place to list all of the healthcare provider information I suggest getting something for that. While most of us have smartphones now, you may want a small tool (notebook, binder) to store your loved one’s medical information and the provider information. This one is a very thorough, and specialized caregiver notebook.
3. Get answers every new caregiver needs – Do I have a list of hands-on helpers to help me in my new caregiver role?
MAKE A LIST OF HANDS-ON HELPERS containing the name, phone number and what they can help you do.
As people hear the news of the changing health and caregiving situation, they often offer support to the new caregiver with tasks like:
- Sitting with your loved one while you run errands
- Bringing food
- Lawn care
Early on, none of this may seem necessary, OR it may only seem needed for a short time.
Caregiving duties and responsibilities usually last longer than anticipated AND can get more demanding over time.
For example, instead of waiting for this overwhelming time to occur, prepare a list now. As people offer help or services, ask them if they are okay if you put them on a list to use later. Most people will graciously approve.
This step may seem irrelevant, but as your duties become more involved over time, it will be a relief to know who you can call for an hour of respite care, a quick errand, lawn services or help with transportation to medical facilities. Do it now and thank yourself later.
Caregiving can be a long journey. Get the answers every new caregiver needs!
In conclusion, learning that you are a new caregiver is scary. But, there are steps you can take to determine how best to begin and stay on your journey.
By asking and answering these questions:
- Do I have enough emotional support?
- Who is my provider partner?
- Do I have a list of hands-on helpers?
You will help yourself be more prepared for your adventure.
Preparation for the journey is the key to not just surviving but enjoying, your new caregiving role. Having answered these questions will be critical to finding joy and peace on the journey.