This is Part 1 of a 3 part series (click here to return to Caring for a Loved One: Part 2)
What is a Caregiver?
If you provide assistance to someone who is disabled or who needs help with day-to-day activities because of an accident, a chronic condition, or cognitive disability, you are a caregiver. However, the definition of a caregiver is a broad one. Shopping for groceries, providing transportation to doctor appointments, and helping an aging parent with finances are also all examples of caregiving. Today, more than 65 million Americans are caregivers.
There are many steps to being a successful caregiver. We will go over the first of these steps now, and more in later blogs.
Assessing the Situation:
As a caregiver, the first and perhaps most important thing to do is to assess the care needs of your loved one. Most likely their needs will change over time but the first step in developing an appropriate care plan is to determine the extent and type of assistance your family member may require and the resources you will need to provide. In other words, your first step is to understand the specific needs of your loved one so that you may develop the best possible long-term care plan.
There are a variety of things to consider when assessing the needs of your loved one. These include:
• Making regular visits to aging parents or other relatives – this can be one of the most effective ways to evaluate their abilities and make note of any changes that may occur over time. Note any changes in your family member’s appearance or abilities, or in the condition of his or her home.
• Speaking with loved one’s physician – this will allow you to personally understand their current medical diagnosis and prognosis, and will also give you an opportunity to ask questions or express concerns.
• Evaluating your loved one’s desire for care – your loved one’s acceptance or resistance to care will be an important factor in making decisions.
No matter what kind of help you provide, caregiving is a journey. Circumstances change. Care needs change. Options for care change. Sometimes you may doubt that you are doing the right thing or if you are doing enough. Be patient with yourself and take it one step at a time. Give yourself credit for the effort you make in caring for someone important to you and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.