Tips to Prepare Yourself When Becoming a Caregiver

Caregiver Tips

At FamilyMeans, our goal is to help caregivers better cope and to improve their ability to provide care for a longer period of time. In doing so, they find they can thrive instead of just survive in their caregiving journey. The following story shares how important it is to prepare for the unexpected when the need for caregiving occurs, and offers tips to help you succeed in a time of stress … 

It happened in an instant. It was Thursday night, August 4.  I had just finished coaching my 5-year-old son’s soccer game when I heard a voicemail from my twin sister, Jackie.  Her voice was in high alarm “Jenny, call me ASAP!”  I knew something was wrong because we talk every morning, not in the evening.  I dial her number and sure enough, it’s happening; our mom is in the emergency room with chest pain.

My head begins to swirl beyond control as I think: How fast can I get to the hospital? What could be happening? How is dad handling this? I told myself I can’t panic, but I found myself thinking who is her primary doctor? What hospital is she even at? Can dad even cok? I have a report due tomorrow at work, will they understand if I can’t finish it? I can’t panic … I am going to panic. But I can’t panic because I don’t want my boys to worry. Who can watch my boys because my husband is out of town? What are her current medications? Should we call our sister in California now or wait for test results? 

I stop. I take a breath and ask myself “Am I ready for this, to be a caregiver?” 

The majority of caregivers are 35-64 years old.  The “average” U.S. caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who is raising her family, working outside the home, and has been spending nearly 20 hours each week providing unpaid care to her mother for nearly five years.  

More than 26 million American workers are trying to find the balance between caregiving and work responsibilities.  Nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) caregivers report making work accommodations because of caregiving.  These adjustments include arriving late/leaving early or taking time off, cutting back on work hours, changing jobs or stopping work entirely.

The challenges of maintaining a job while caring for a family member can increase your stress level, impact your health, and reduce your productivity.  The following are some ways to bring balance to the dual responsibilities of being a working caregiver:

Build your team.  Include doctors, pharmacists, family members and service organizations.  Anyone who can help you in your caregiving role is a team member.

Educate yourself not only about medical conditions, but also insurance coverage, eligible community programs, and caregiving services. 

Plan for the future. Discuss future health care directives and end of life issues.  Waiting until a crisis occurs insures that options will be more limited, and that decisions will have to be made in haste.

Know your optionsbefore you need them.  Learn about the range of services in your community that can help provide care (i.e.: in-home assistance/personal cares, delivery of meals, transportation, etc.). 

Share the work.  Don’t try to do everything yourself, you are not alone.  Knowing your own limits and asking for help is a sign of inner strength. 

Take advantage of community resources and professional services for caregiving tasks that are stressful for you.

My mom came home the next day.  She did not have a heart attack and was happy to be home.  I may not have become a caregiver in this instance, but it has showed me that I want to be more prepared and confident about the options available should “this instance” ever happen again.

What steps have you taken to be prepared for your call? What questions do you still have? Contact FamilyMeans today to see how we can help prepare you to be a caregiver