an online resource for baby boomers

Tips for New Cargivers

Rosalyn Carter said it best: “There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” Have you found yourself in the situation where you suddenly need to care for an elderly family member? If so, your life may already be filled with children’s sporting events to attend, meals to prepare for your family, a home to maintain, or your own career to manage.

Whether it was a medical crisis that plunged you into the role of caregiver, or the caregiving situation evolved more gradually, most caregivers are unprepared for how all-encompassing the role of a caregiver can be. Along with the need to provide common tasks such as transportation, shopping, meal preparation, personal care and money management, caregiving can take a physical and emotional toll. It’s common for caregivers to be very surprised at the sadness, anger, guilt and other emotions that may be “stirred up” by caregiving. If left unexpressed, those negative emotions can result in long-term depression or physical illness.

About 80% of all caregiving is unpaid, provided by relatives and friends, the majority of which are women. Most are working full or part-time in addition to caregiving duties and most have little or no experience in caring for an older loved one when they take on the responsibility. Clearly, family/friend caregivers are the backbone of the healthcare industry – and one that must be supported with self-care help and community resources.

It is important to understand the variety of resources that are available to you as a first-time caregiver so that you can perform this new role to the best of your ability. Being a first-time caregiver can be both extremely challenging and wonderful, but it is necessary to feel comfortable with your new role in order for your elderly relative to thrive and for you and your family to benefit most meaningfully from the care that you will provide.

Here are some tips for first-time caregivers that may be helpful to you:

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Boomers Resource Guide is a special supplement to the Senior Citizen's Guide