How To Be A Caregiver (Local or Long Distance)
Following are tips to being a pro-active caregiver:
- Determine the roles of the family member and/or friends who wish to be part of the caregiving team. Caregivers do not need to be part of a nuclear family.
- Who can help?
- What can they do?
- Coordinate who does what and when. Free online tools are available to help coordinate care schedules. For example, see the following: (in alphabetical order)
- If necessary, engage professionals to help. You can locate professionals through the Eldercare Locator at www.eldercare.gov
- Keep in mind that the role of a caregiver changes over the course of a disease.
- Be sensitive to the needs of the person you care about.
- For instance, when treatment is finished, you may think there will be elation. Instead, this is often a period of emotional turmoil. The emotions that were kept in check after diagnosis and during treatment tend to surface. There is also the feeling of being isolated after leaving a treatment team. In fact, unexpected emotions may surface at any time.
- Do things in the patient's own time. For instance, if the patient is used to going to bed at 11:15 at night, time caregiving so he or she can stay on schedule.
- Take care of yourself. If you are not in good shape, you will not be able to help the person you care about.
- Do your best to eat right, exercise, and take care of your own health - including preventive health care.
- Give yourself some time off. Time off can be so important to your health that health insurance may pay for someone to take over for you for a while. This is known as "respite care." Check the policy of the person you care for.
- Be informed.
- Maintain close communication with the person's doctor, other medical providers, and helpers.
- Keep a log book.
- Include what you learn when you speak with the person you're caring for, family members and friends.
- Note all your activities about the person's health insurance and other matters. Include the name and contact information of each person you speak with, and what happened.
- Keep a list of contact information for everyone involved in the person's health care and personal care. Include mobile phones and e mail addresses. Give the list to everyone involved. Keep a copy near your phone.
- When you do visit, do your own assessment. of how the person is doing. For example, look at::
- Personal hygiene
- Level of mobility
- Whether nutritional needs are being met
- The condition of the home
- Safety factors such as working smoke detectors and a trusted neighbor having a key.
- Look for small things or gestures that can help. For instance, a foot massage can be soothing as well as to help bond the two of you.
LONG DISTANCE CAREGIVER (when you are an hour or more away from the person you care about)
Distance creates a barrier - but not an insurmountable one. In addition to the above tips:
- To help stay informed:
- Schedule a regular time to talk – including time to talk with your loved one.
- set up safety net of other friends and family members who can monitor the person you care about. Let them be your eyes and ears.
- Stay in touch with your loved one.
- In addition to "old" means such as telephone and mail use free internet communication tools such as e mail and Skype.
- Consider setting up a camera in the person's home so you can monitor them.
- Book regular trips to visit the person ahead of time. It not only saves money, it gives you both something to look forward to.
- Meals can be organized through such websites as MealTrain .
- Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (and similar state laws), you may be entitled to take up to 12 weeks off of work to care for a person close to you. To learn more, click here.
- Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, (ADA) and similar state laws, you cannot be discriminated against because of associating with a person with a "disability" (health condition.) While the ADA provides that people with a disability must be given a reasonable accommodation if needed to permit them to do their job, a similar protection does NOT extend to caregivers. If you need an accommodation at work to help you be a caretaker, you will have to negotiate for it on your own. To learn how, click here.
To Learn More
More InformationGuidelines To Help Keep Caregivers From Burning Out Holiday Stress and Depression Caregivers From A Survivor's Perspective
Related ArticlesCaregiver Agreement