Don’t try to do it alone. Daily caregiving can be very, very demanding. You may find it hard to go to work or even find the time to get prescriptions filled or go to the grocery store. So if a friend, family member or neighbor offers to help, accept.
Take care of your own health. Try to get some exercise every day, even if it means just a few short walks or doing a DVD or videotape at home. Keep your own doctor’s appointments—many caregivers are so busy taking their family members to appointments that they neglect their own health. Remember to get a flu shot, a cholesterol screening, blood pressure check, and other annual exams.
Get the training you need. As hospital care improves, patients often have shorter hospital stays. But when your loved one comes home from the hospital, you shouldn’t be expected to know how to care for them without training. You will need to be taught how to keep a wound clean and change bandages; how to move your family member without hurting your back; and how to make sure your family member is taking medications correctly. Before your loved one goes home, ask a hospital nurse to instruct you in these tasks.
Make time for a break. There are many programs that provide “respite care” – a break for caregivers – so you can run an errand, go to a movie with a friend or go to the gym. Your local Agency on Aging may have resources to send in a home attendant, or you may be able to place your loved one in an adult day care program.
Join a caregiver support group. Connecting with others who share your situation can be the best way to manage your own emotions and prevent “burnout” and depression. If you can’t leave your family member at home, join a telephone support group – you can still have a strong connection to other caregivers without having to arrange more care. It really helps!