8 Tips for First-Time Caregivers

Becoming a caregiver for the first time can be daunting, especially if it happens overnight due to illness or injury. One day your loved one is living a healthy independent life, and the next they need your help with basic activities of daily living. This sudden shift can be difficult for both caregivers and care recipients. It can be hard for seniors to feel like they’re losing their independence and for caregivers to navigate their new role while juggling other responsibilities.

To help you figure out how to provide the best care for your loved one without stretching yourself too thin, here are eight tips and resources for first-time caregivers.

1. Assess Your Loved One’s Needs

One of the first things you should do as you step into your new caregiver role is assess your loved one’s needs. Ask your relative which tasks they struggle with to get an idea of the level of assistance they’ll require. Keep in mind that some seniors have trouble asking for help and may say they’re coping well even if they aren’t.

If your relative isn’t being open with you, it may be a good idea to hire a social worker to perform a formal care needs assessment. You can also ask your loved one if you can attend their medical appointments to learn more about their health conditions and how they may affect daily functioning.

2. Create a Care Plan

hand and arm writing in a journal "my plan"
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Once you know how much assistance your loved one requires, you can figure out the best ways to meet their needs and create a care plan. A care plan is a written document that outlines your loved one’s health conditions, current treatments and medications, and care needs. It lists exactly which tasks your loved one needs help with and who will provide that care so you can create a caregiving schedule. If you’ve never drafted a care plan before, the CDC has a template that can help you get started.

3. Ask Family and Friends for Support

Less than half of family caregivers ask for support to lighten their load. Caregivers often feel guilty about asking for help and worry that it will make them look selfish or uncommitted to their role. Asking for a helping hand isn’t selfish, however. You can’t do it all, and trying to will only lead to burnout.

Your family and friends would probably be happy to take over some of your duties if asked. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them for support, even if they don’t live nearby or have much free time. They may still be able to help you with smaller tasks such as meal planning or bill paying to take some weight off your shoulders.

4. Consider Hiring an In-Home Caregiver

caretaker hero

If there aren’t any other people who can help out with your loved one’s care or if you just need an extra pair of hands, there are still ways you can get support. One option is to hire a professional caregiver through an in-home care agency like Professional Caretakers. Whether it’s one-time help, assistance with transportation, meal preparation – we’re here to help.

We thoroughly screen all of our caregivers to ensure they’ll provide the most compassionate, attentive care possible. You’ll always know your relative is in good hands with our caregivers, which will give you peace of mind and allow you to take much-needed time off.

5. Take Advantage of Community Resources

There may also be community-based programs in your area that you can sign up for if you need additional support. Your local Aging and Disability Resource Center can connect you with helpful resources such as meal delivery programs, care coordination services, senior transportation, and more. Utilizing these programs will enable you to meet your loved one’s needs without running yourself ragged.

6. Try to Involve Your Loved One in Care Decisions

A Woman in Yellow Sweater Preparing Medicine for an Elderly Man
Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels

The care choices you make impact your loved one just as much as they affect you. So it’s important to involve your relative in the decision-making process. Find out more about their plans and desires for the future and try to honor their wishes as much as possible.

Ask them how they feel about nursing homes, aging in place, and end of life care. Review their finances with them to get an idea of what kind of care they can afford, and make sure they have important legal documents such as advance directives in place. Although these can be tough conversations, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions if you discuss your relative’s financial situation and care preferences in advance.

7. Utilize Technology

Utilizing technology can make your job as a caretaker easier. Caregiving apps like Caring Village and Lotsa Helping Hands can help you coordinate your loved one’s care and stay organized. They allow you to do things like:

  • Securely store important legal and medical documents all in one place
  • Communicate with your loved one’s other caretakers and share to-do lists and schedules
  • Set up automatic reminders so you don’t forget to give your loved one medication or take them to doctor’s appointments

Grocery delivery apps and rideshare services like Uber can also be helpful if you don’t always have time to shop for your relative or drive them around.

You can even use technology to check in on your loved one and make sure they’re okay when you’re not with them. Smartwatches that send information to an app on your phone can help you track your loved one’s heart rate, blood glucose level, daily activity, and more. Many smartwatches can even detect falls and call 911 in case of an emergency.

8. Take Care of Yourself

woman drinking glass of water
Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels

Family caregivers spend an average of 24 hours per week assisting their aging relative on top of other commitments, such as raising children and working a full-time job. With all of these responsibilities on their shoulders, it’s unsurprising that 4 in 10 family caregivers find their role extremely stressful.

Although it can be hard to find time for yourself, it’s important to prioritize self-care so you don’t burn out. Make sure you get enough rest, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, and do things you enjoy. Grabbing lunch with friends or attending a support group will replenish your energy so you can provide the best care for your loved one.

Remember, you are not alone.

Caregiving can be a difficult job, but you don’t have to do it all alone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, hiring a professional in-home caretaker can help take some tasks off your plate and lighten your load. To learn more about our services and how we can support you and your loved one, contact us today.