What an excellent article for our unsung heroes, the caregivers! Being a caregiver isn’t easy. Getting your hands on resources that help you along the way can be invaluable. Caregiving Cafe is a wonderful resource filled with very useful information. Founded by Lynn Greenblatt, Caregiving Cafe is our go-to site for caregiving tips, resources and information. Here is a post we particularly like.


By Lynn Greenblatt

Anyone can become a family caregiver at any time.  All that’s required is a diagnosis and the willingness of another to look after the patient.  The illness or condition, its severity or stage, the patient’s health, constitution and emotional well-being will all affect how well the patient will be able to manage learning about the health issue, dealing with the treatment and adjusting to a new routine.  This is when a family caregiver can partner with the patient, becoming his / her “extension” and advocate.

Whether sudden illness throws you into a new caregiving role or it evolves gradually over time, there are certain steps that can help a new family caregiver to better manage care:

Create a care team.  This is a group of people that will guide and help the family caregiver to perform all necessary tasks.  The team should include: doctors, nurses, therapists and all medical professionals involved in the patient’s treatment.  They will say what needs to be done or avoided.  This includes dietary restrictions, exercise or activity level, medications, etc.

Create a support team.  This group will include family members and friends, and can help with meals, errands, driving to doctor’s appointments, visiting the patient and giving the family caregiver a break.

Learn about the condition, medications, side effects, treatments.  Ask questions at appointments or call the nurse / therapist if you have any concerns.

Use online services or technology to coordinate care and tasks with your support and care teams.  CaringBridge, LotsaHelpingHands, eCareDiary, etc. are some tools that can help update family and friends, and organize help.

Schedule and take small breaks every day – even if you don’t feel that you need them.  It’s important to take your mind off whatever you do all day to let your brain and emotions recharge.  Caregiving is usually a long and bumpy road, so you want to take steps to last through the journey.

Take care of yourself: exercise, walk 30-60 minutes daily, eat nutritious meals.

Stay in touch with friends and family.  Don’t wait for someone to call you.  People often don’t want to take up your time (they know you’re busy) or they don’t know how to help (they often want the caregiver to tell them what he/she needs).  Call them!

Make a list of all tasks, big and small, that you can show people when they offer to help.  Let them choose a task right then and there!

Make a list of all medications – including other the counter (OTC) meds – and all doctors and their contact information.  Update as needed.  Keep a copy in the patient’s room, take a copy to each doctor’s appointment.

Find out what services and resources are available near you from your doctor, disease organizations, support groups or online.

Reach out early to friends, family and community to remain strong and motivated.  This will help you avoid depression, anxiety, stress and burnout.

Get organized.  You may need to fill out forms for the patient’s health insurance, doctors, therapists, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.  Set up folders, label them and keep a copy of everything.  You may be able to deduct medical expenses in your tax return, so keep receipts.

Set up Durable and Medical Power of Attorneys, Advance Directives, Will for the patient.  Let family know your caree’s wishes.

Breathe!  Not everything happens at once.  But do a little every day to set yourself up to be an efficient family caregiver.  This will reduce stress and enable you to better cope.  Just remember that a family caregiver is there to CARE, not necessarily to CURE!

Make sure you spend time with your loved one just visiting, chatting, enjoying each other’s company.  Your caree didn’t choose the illness or frailty and may be having a hard time accepting it.  Show compassion, empathy, patience and tolerance as best you can.  One day, we may need someone to care for us!

Be grateful that you are able to care for someone else.  The caree could have been you!

Original post: http://www.caregivingcafe.com/blog/2012/11/30-posts-in-30-days-advice-to-newly-diagnosed-caregivers/

ExpressWell gives special thanks to Lynn for including us in her blog, in New Caregiver Links and Caregiving in the 21st Century. We’re honored and most grateful!

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2 Responses to “Advice to “Newly Diagnosed” Caregivers”

  1. Thank you, ExpressWell for posting my article! I am honored and grateful! I appreciate your tremendous support in reaching out to the growing number of caregivers. With increased awareness, I hope caregivers will use the fantastic resources available to them right now, and that communities and families will support them in their caregiving journey. All best wishes! Lynn

  2. Andrew says:

    Lynn,

    Thank you for writing such a pertinent article; we were delighted to re-post it. Caregivers are so often out of the spotlight (which, rightly so, is focused on the patient), so speaking directly to caregivers as a discreet audience is both timely and appreciated. The resources you aggregated are a perfect tool set to keep a caregiver / companion sane and moving forward. Thank you for the article and all of the tremendous resources you have found and shared on your site.

    Warmly,
    Andrew