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Priorities for a First Time Caregiver

Priorities for a First Time Caregiver

By Susan Williams

There are approximately 34.2 million Americans and 8.1 million Canadians who are currently caregivers and this number is anticipated to grow.

When someone becomes a first time caregiver, this can seem like an overwhelming situation. Whether you find yourself suddenly a caregiver as a result of someone becoming injured or ill or whether it is something that slowly sneaks up over a period of time, either way becoming a caregiver can truly be a life altering event.

To help us better understand what a new caregiver should initially do, we spoke with Carol Bradley Bursack. Carol is the Founder of Minding Our Elders and has nearly two decades of eldercare and caregiver experience.

Here is our conversation;

These are the highlights of our discussion;

Priority #1 – Focus on Yourself

  • This is often not the first thing that is thought of but it is very important
  • When placed in the role of caregiver, you need to think of this role as being potentially long term and how this will fit into your life. If it only lasts a short while people tend to manage however if it does become a long term situation it can take a huge toll and if the caregiver goes down,it can affect everyone
  • This is a similar concept to when taking a flight and given the safety instructions to attach your mask first before helping others

Priority #2 – Realize That You Won’t Be the Perfect Caregiver

  • You may think you will be the perfect caregiver or even have commented on others and said “I would never do that” but you will do your best and your best will be good enough
  • You will make mistakes. Accept this upfront and don’t be too hard on yourself

Priority #3 – Don’t Let Outside Criticism Throw You

  • Be open. You can always learn from other people but don’t let coaches who know nothing about what you are doing throw you off your game because you know your elders, you know their needs so have some faith in yourself
  • Check with people you trust if you are not sure of something

Priority #4 – Get Some Support

  • Whether it is online caregiver support groups, disease support groups (for example diabetes or Alzheimer’s) or there are some wonderful online support groups. Often these groups can also help direct you to in-person support groups if you prefer
  • Do get support early – you will need it

Priority #5 – Become Knowledgeable About What You Are Dealing With

  • Should the person you are caring for have a disease, become as knowledgeable as you can about the disease. Not to the point that it takes over your life but this research will help you become much more comfortable with what you are dealing with
  • If there are associations that focus on the disease (for example diabetes, cancer, dementia) look them up and get engaged with them and find out what support they can possibly provide
  • Look for help from other agencies. For example in the US – you can go to www.aging.gov and look for services based on your State. In Canada you can go to the Government of Canada website for Seniors by Province

Priority #6 – Ensure You Have Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Finances

  • It is always advised to have these discussion concerning power of attorney throughout your adult years. Situations where someone requires care can happen at any age
  • However if these discussions have not be done already, it is important that they happen. This way someone can be involved in their elder’s medical care and discussions as well as support any financial situations that may arise
  • This needs to be done before something significant happens. For example, if someone develops a cognitive disorder, there comes a time when this assignment can no longer be done which can create a very large legal problem
  • Make sure that you do not bully your elders. Do not take over their life. Treat them with respect and dignity and allow them to make choices. Be their partner in care.

Priority #7 – Discuss Living Arrangements

  • Carol recommends having a discussion with your loved one on what type of housing they would like. Although most may want to stay at home, it is best to have this conversation as to what may be next
  • Also do not ever promise that you will never put someone in a nursing home. You never know what the future may hold and this could put you up against a wall and ultimately facing a promise that you just cannot keep

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.