If you’re new to caregiving, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for handling your caregiver duties, these five steps to mastering them will give you the tools you need to get started:
1. Familiarize Yourself
New caregivers need to get up to speed quickly, and duties vary depending on the situation. Evaluate your circumstances and the needs of your loved one. Keep a notebook to organize your thoughts, and ask yourself what questions you need answered right away. Next, do your research. For example, you’ll find expert tips, advice, infographics, and anecdotes from fellow caregivers on Pinterest.
2. Set up Systems
Just as you have morning routines, you’ll want to develop routines (otherwise known as systems) for your caregiver duties. Once you implement a system, things will start falling into place. Consider the following:
- Doctors’ visits and communications. Think: Who does your loved one need to see, and when is her appointment? Who can take her?
- Administering medication. What kind, and when?
- Meals. Pick a few dinner entrees and seasonal veggies that you can roast. Rotate the entrees and any herbs and spices you use on the veggies throughout the week. Do the same for breakfast and lunch. Prepare a few entrees in advance and prep veggies on the weekends.
- Preparations. Get everything ready for the next day the night before. Keep a list that can help you remember what to grab in the morning.
- Home safety. Get your senior to pitch in to ensure her house is fall-proof and accessible.
3. Use Technology
Set up a shared calendar to use with family members and an account at CaringBridge so you can post information for everyone to view. If you prefer an app, try to look for something that includes medication management, a calendar, and a contact database. If you accompany your loved one to the doctor, ask if you can photograph his medical records with your camera.
4. Get Support
Enlist help from family and friends. Be specific when you ask for help: “Would you mind watching Johnny while I take Mother to the doctor?” is a reasonable, actionable request that allows a loved one to understand the scope of what you need and act accordingly.
5. Care for the Caregiver
When you’re juggling work, life, and caregiving duties, you’ll never find time for yourself — but you can make some. Start with deep breathing. This is a life- and sanity- saving technique that belongs in everyone’s toolkit, not just those with caregiver duties.
For the sake of your senior’s safety and your own peace of mind, consider a medical alert system. And for even more peace of mind, remember that caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. You are one person — and with these resources, you’ll do the absolute best job you can.