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Health & Balance

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Caregiver Tips - Caregiver Tip No. 2: Don't Help Too Much

Even if they don't admit it, people like to help themselves. Every time you do something for a person that the person could have done without help, there is a double loss. First, your effort may have been wasted. Second, the person has missed an opportunity to help himself or herself.

As a caregiver, your highest goal is to give the person you are caring for the power and the permission to be in control of his or her own life (as much as possible). Every act your loved one makes to maintain independence is a victory for you as a caregiver.

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Here are some things you can do to empower the person you are caring for to do things independently:

  • Let the person make as many decisions as possible. For example, let the person decide what to wear, what to eat, or when to go to bed. Help him or her keep as much control as possible.
  • Simplify. For example, if you are caring for a person who has mild dementia, divide complex tasks into simpler steps for him or her: First, get out the cereal box. Next, get out the milk and the bowl, and so forth.
  • Make it easy. One of the most productive things a caregiver can do is to make changes in the person's home and provide tools that will allow the person to do things without help.
  • Allow for mistakes and less-than-perfect results. The hardest thing about letting someone do something without help is knowing that you could do it better or faster. Mistakes are okay.
  • Reward both the effort and the result. Help the person feel good about doing things on his or her own.
  • Give the person responsibility to care for something. Studies show that nursing home residents who are asked to care for pets or plants live longer and become more independent.
  • Match tasks with abilities. Identify the person's skills, and try to match them with tasks that the person can do on his or her own. If you aren't sure what tasks are reasonable, talk with the person's doctor.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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