7 Things to Keep in Mind as a New Caregiver

May 2nd 2023 in Self Care

Providing care to a loved one entails such a wide variety of things that caregivers generally find themselves with their hands full as soon as they step into this role, and they need to ride a steep learning curve fast. If you are in such a situation, or know someone who is, these are some of the things you need to understand upfront to overcome this challenge.

1. You matter, and your health matters

According to a study by American Psychological Association, almost a third of unpaid (read, family) caregivers report behavioral and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance use. Caregivers soon start prioritizing the health of their loved ones over anything else, and that’s understandable to an extent, but you need to understand that in order to be effective you need to give due care to yourself as well.

In any case, this is not selfish behavior because you cannot take care of someone else effectively if you are not of a sane body and mind yourself. When you feel yourself falling into such a pattern start by making sure that you always get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly

2. Resentment is addictive, and it doesn’t really help

In the case of prolonged caregiving that drains caregivers financially and emotionally, it’s easy to start resenting people and situations. The object of your resentment may be siblings who could’ve shared the burden of caring for your parents, it may be your colleagues who refuse to cut you some slack despite being aware of your situation, it could even be the person you are caring for.

Resentment feels good, and can be addictive, because it makes you feel righteous and puts your self-image on a pedestal from where everyone else looks small and petty. It’s dangerous, however, and must be avoided because it doesn’t actually solve any problem and will make you a bitter person if you let it run free.

3. Frantic is fast, organized is faster

In the early days, your instinct may be to do everything as fast as possible, but it’s better for your mental health to acknowledge that caregiving is not a short-term project and you have no control over the timeline.

In dire cases, people try to push forward the timeline as much as possible if anything. Therefore, handling all the logistics in an organized and planned manner will make sure that your life—especially the individual life that you will continue to lead in parallel with caregiving—does not suffer from a lack of attention.

Ultimately, being organized will help you do things in a calm manner, without getting frustrated—something that can be incredibly important for your loved one’s good experience.

4. Educate yourself

Learning about your loved one's condition and any treatments they are receiving can help you provide better care. Take the time to research their condition, attend doctor's appointments, and ask questions. This can help you better understand their needs and how to manage any symptoms or side effects.

Also, try to pick up on medical/ caregiving jargon bit by bit so that you clearly understand what’s going on during emergencies, and are able to course correct on the fly.

5. Communication is crucial

Make sure that your loved one doesn’t feel as if they are suddenly an object of pity or someone who is completely dependent on you. Keep communicating with them, make them your partner in this situation, try to understand their routines and habits to give them some semblance of normalcy, and all of this will help them retain their dignity as an independent human being.

On the other hand, talking to them about the things you are going through will also help them relate with you and your limitations in a more positive way.

“ Make sure that your loved one doesn’t feel as if they are suddenly an object of pity or someone who is completely dependent on you”

6. Don’t depend on mind-reading. Ask for help

Despite what you may think at the bleakest of times, chances are that you have people around you who are willing to help but don’t know how to do it and feel awkward in some situations. So, take the first step and ask for help. The worst-case scenario is that someone may refuse, but hey, this way at least you know who you can and cannot depend upon, right?

In the case of older loved ones for whom you may be acting as a caregiver, include their friends and acquaintances in conversations. You may end up with a better idea of the lifestyle changes to which your loved ones are trying to adapt and act accordingly.

7. Caregiving ≠ End of All Joy

Last but definitely not least, please don’t frame caregiving as a period of mourning in your head. Yes, it is harrowing, and tiring, and taxing, and bleak, but all of this will only worsen if you spend all your time preparing for the worst possible outcome.

Instead, try to cherish whatever little joys, pleasant days, anecdote-filled evenings, life sends your way every once in a while. Celebrate your loved one's milestones and achievements, no matter how small they may seem. This could include reaching a health goal, completing a task on their own, or simply having a good day.

In conclusion, becoming a new caregiver can be both rewarding and challenging. It requires a lot of dedication, patience, and compassion. By keeping in mind the tips and suggestions discussed in this article, you can help make the caregiving experience a more positive one for both you and your loved one. Remember to take care of yourself, communicate effectively, stay organized, educate yourself, stay positive, practice self-compassion, seek support when needed, consider your loved one's preferences, connect emotionally, manage your emotions, plan for the future, and celebrate milestones and achievements. Being a caregiver is an act of love, and by providing the best care possible for your loved one, you can make a difference in their life and yours.