Most people take care of others throughout their lives, in ways big and small, on occasion or habitually. But the decision to look for a regular caregiver, or to become a caregiver for another adult on an ongoing basis, is a big deal. Sometimes that decision follows a catastrophic event - a new diagnosis, or an accident - but more often it grows slowly, with the increasing realization that "it's time".
However it happens, here's some useful advice and things to think about, as you ponder being a caregiver for a family member, friend or loved one:
Many parts of a caregiver's job can go un-remarked, which is why the Atlas of Caregiving project documents the wide range of activities caregivers engage in. The Atlas' list of various aspects of caregiving may help you think about (and arrange for) care now, and anticipate future needs. While everyone's experience is different, it may be also useful to read about them, to see what you have in common.
Caregiving can be short-term, when recovering from an injury or illness:
When thinking about what caregivers do, we tend to focus on health concerns and activities of daily living. But many people also need help with managing their finances - and that could be a major part of a caregiver's duties.
Caregiving is universal, as these videos in English, Spanish, Hmong, Khmer, and Somali, made for the Minneapolis Twin Cities region, explain.
Checklists and tip sheets can be essential tools for a care plan. The Family Caregiver Alliance has many videos on key caregiver skills (managing medications, nutrition, home safety, hygiene, transfer skills, self-care) organized into playlists.
Here's one video from that series, about keeping track of medications:
Checklists, tip sheets, and How-Tos are also invaluable. Besides these links, you might want to look at the checklists included in the other tabs for this guide.
Caregiving has its own jargon, with sometimes-confusing terminology. AARP's glossary gives useful definitions:
Be sure to discuss information gathered from these resources with your health care providers to see if it is relevant to your individual situation. Health and medical information accessed through these websites is not intended to substitute for or to replace the advice or instruction of a health care professional.
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