For many, becoming a caregiver is a gradual process. It may start small–a few extra trips to visit your parents to help them with small tasks around the house. After a while, you realize that you’ve taken on a lot more than you originally set out to. When it all boils down, it hits you—you are a caregiver.
For others, the process is much more sudden. An injury, diagnosis, or devastating health event such as a stroke, has left your loved one in need of help. Or maybe it’s a sudden realization that your family member is showing signs of aging or memory loss, and you can’t let them continue living on their own.
However it comes to you, once you realize that you have become a caregiver, your life is forever changed. In this article, we’re going to discuss caregiving strategies—how to approach becoming a caregiver in a way that is beneficial for your loved one and sustainable for your life.
First Steps as a Caregiver: Strategizing Care
Once you’ve recognized that you have become a caregiver, you can quickly start to feel overwhelmed. Here are a few steps to help you get organized from the beginning to reduce the stress over the long term.
Get a formal diagnosis and/or a second opinion.
Knowing exactly what you’re up against when caring for your loved one can take a lot of stress off of you in the long term. Having a formal diagnosis will allow your loved one to start any available early treatments and will give you more time to learn about the diagnosis and prognosis so that you can mentally prepare for what’s ahead.
Learn about the diagnosis.
Take some time to learn about the diagnosis or condition your loved one is facing. This will give you an opportunity to figure out what skills you will need as a caregiver and what your task load may look like while caring for this condition. You can find information on diagnosis-specific nonprofit pages, within support groups, through caregiver Facebook groups, by asking the doctors and care staff questions, etc.
Meet with family.
Once you know what you’re up against, it will be easier to strategize care with your family. Having family members available to help with care can take a lot of the stress off of you as the caregiver. Beyond care, it’s important to discuss the details of future planning, such as managing finances, honoring healthcare wishes, arranging for legal paperwork, pooling resources, etc.
Put together a care plan.
A care plan is a written document that organizes all the details. It’s a space where you can set goals for care, set goals for your loved one, organize all of your paperwork, set emergency and contingency plans, gather diagnosis treatment and medication information in one place, and more. For a full guide to how to put together a care plan, click here.
Caregiving can quickly become incredibly isolating. A lot of caregivers struggle with the fact that most of their friends cannot relate to their struggles, and may not understand their busy schedules. There are currently millions of caregivers in the United States, and millions more who have been in your shoes before. Finding a support group, therapist, or confidant you trust early on can help you stave off anxiety, depression, and burnout.
Plan for self-care.
Becoming a caregiver can eat up a lot of your time. This is usually on top of other demanding responsibilities, like raising children or a full-time job. The weight of your many responsibilities can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t prioritize your mental and physical health. Take time to do something just for you each and every day. Write in a journal, call a friend, take a bubble bath, read a guilty pleasure book, go for a walk, or anything else that helps you mentally reset for the day.
Closing Thoughts: Caregiving Strategies
When looking for the best way to approach becoming a caregiver, time and stress management are prevalent strategies. Taking these initial steps as we laid out in this article will help you feel more prepared to provide care without risking your sanity.
If you are a family caregiver, the California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County is here for you. We invite you to check out our free resources for family caregivers by clicking here or give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you.