5 Tips for New Family Caregivers
If you work full-time or take care of young children, you may be wondering how to juggle these responsibilities with caring for an aging loved one.
To help, we’ve assembled some of the best tips for caregivers as you embark on this new journey.
1. Establish a routine
Establishing a routine will help keep your whole family happy, especially if you’re caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia. People with Alzheimer’s do best with a steady routine and often start to wander or become aggressive if anything disrupts their schedule.
But even if your aging loved one doesn’t have dementia, a routine can help keep everyone feel less stressed.
2. Write everything down
Make your day planner—whether it’s a smartphone app or a physical journal or calendar—your friend.
Use it to record your routine (until it becomes second nature), doctor’s appointments, family plans, projects your children may have due, or important work-related activities you can’t miss.
Keeping it all together in one place avoids double-bookings and missed appointments. It also gives you a sense of control over your life—something that is often hard to come by when you’re a new family caregiver.
3. Create a caregiving budget
Just as you want to plan out other aspects of your life now that you’re a caregiver, it’s time to take a look at your finances.
Your aging loved one may offer you some financial help. Or you may find yourself with a slew of unexpected expenses. In either event, your budget is going to change now that you’re a caregiver.
Planning ahead can help prevent expensive mistakes (like quitting your job to provide full-time care). And you’ll also be able to see where you can afford to hire help.
4. Ask for help with caregiving or other daily tasks
Help can come in many forms.
Don’t be afraid to turn to others when you need a break. Family members can help with your senior loved one. Or they can pick up the slack in other areas, such as driving your children to sports practice or helping you clean the house.
What if family members are unavailable or don’t live nearby? Consider hiring paid help for chores you managed before. A landscaper, housecleaner, or a laundry service can lighten your load.
Adult day programs are another option that allows your loved one a place for socializing and—an added benefit—time out of the house. Use respite care for a longer break, such as a weekend or even a few weeks. There may be no need to give up your planned family vacation because you’re a caregiver now.
A senior care manager can help you put it all together. From financial management for your aging loved one to helping you find a local adult day center or respite care, support from an expert can make a difference.
5. Take care of yourself first
It sounds cliché, but it bears repeating—over and over. You can’t care for anyone else if you’re stressed out and worn out. If your energy level is low or you are sick from doing too much, you won’t be effective in any of your many roles.
Take time to eat regular, healthy meals. If you had an exercise routine before, stick to it. If not, find time to walk or engage in physical activities that make you happy and help relieve stress.
Most importantly, don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. You need it and you deserve it.
By following these tips, you’ll soon be a caregiving pro.
Look for more caregiving resources on the Five Star Senior Living blog.