If you’re a caregiver for an older adult, you know that while it’s rewarding, it can also be a challenge. There are many things you can do to ensure that your loved one gets the best care possible -- all while you take the steps to make the job easier on yourself as well.
How You Can Support Their Care
As a caregiver, you play an essential role in your loved one’s life. One of the ways you may do this is through joining them at their doctor appointments. While you’re at these appointments, not only do you provide your loved one with support, but you can help even more when you engage with their doctor.
It’s crucial that you learn how to communicate with your loved one’s medical team. You can help support them when they might not be able to speak for themselves. In some cases, for example, if your loved one has dementia or a terminal illness, they may not be able to speak effectively with their doctor. As a caregiver, you can be the person who bridges the gap between your loved one and their doctors.
You can be your loved one’s advocate in times that they aren’t able to be their own. You can also help relay important information from doctors to your loved one so that they stay in the loop.
It’s smart to keep notes so that you can properly retell information to either your loved one or their doctor. This is especially important if your loved one has multiple doctors. Caregiving can be hard work, so it’s crucial that you stay organized.
To ensure that you provide the best care to your loved one, you may want to chat with their doctor. You can ask them questions like:
- What’s the best way to communicate with you and your medical team?
- How can I make my loved one feel heard and comfortable during appointments?
- Are there things I can do at home to help physically and mentally care for them?
- What are some ways I can help my loved one keep some independence while I care for them?
- How can I keep my loved one engaged with family and friends if they choose to?
- How can I care for myself as a caregiver?
How to Build a Bond With Your Loved One and Their Doctor
As you communicate with your loved one’s doctor, you’ll likely form a good relationship with them. But it’s important that you include your loved one in that bond too. Open communication between you, your loved one, and their medical team can pave the way for smoother conversations and less confusion.
Actively build a strong relationship between you, your loved one, and their medical team. Through this, you’ll simplify your job as a caregiver and empower your loved one.
Here are some tips on how to create a strong relationship:
Communicate wisely. Be patient. Allow your loved one to always speak their mind first, before you respond or clarify anything to their doctor. Never raise your voice or become angry.
Be smart about the topics you share. When you have to discuss something difficult, do so kindly and compassionately. Save certain conversations for when your loved one isn’t stressed, tired, or mad.
If you ever feel angry or overwhelmed, share those feelings with another person. Never release them on your loved one or their doctors.
Listen to your loved one. During treatment or checkups, your loved one might not always agree with you on certain decisions. When it’s possible to do so, always take their wants and needs into account. Give their point of view respect and value. Openly communicate with them and their doctor to find the best way to balance their desires with yours.
Take Care of Yourself as Well
Self-care is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver. The more you take care of yourself, the better you’ll be able to show up for your loved one. It’s vital that you:
Keep up with your own needs. Make sure you eat healthy meals, stay active, and maintain a social life outside of caregiving. You may feel that caregiving consumes your time, but it’s important to take a step back and find ways to also give yourself love.
Say yes to help. In order to give yourself the care you also need, you might need outside help. Always accept help when you need it. If your family or friends ask to take on a task for you, make sure they have specific steps on how to help so that things run smoothly.
If you don’t feel comfortable having another person help with a certain task, find another thing they can help with instead. For example, maybe you don’t want to have another person help bathe your loved one, but they can instead go on a grocery run for you to open up your schedule a bit.
Similarly, you can get help from organizations that assist older adults and their caregivers. For example, the American Cancer Society provides free transportation for people who need help getting to their appointments. If you’re unable to take your loved one to an appointment, programs like this can offer you a hand.
Other programs offer support with food. Meals on Wheels provides consistent and nutritious options for older adults. If you’re unable to prepare food for your loved one, this program can ensure they get a high-quality meal.
If you need help buying food, freefood.org has lists of different local food pantries, food banks, and food coupon resources. You can browse different options based on your city. These organizations can help you provide food for yourself and your loved one at no cost.
Find support. You can connect with other people in caregiving roles. This can help you learn from, share with, and chat with people in the same position as you. Support groups can encourage you and help you through tricky situations. Similarly, friends and family can offer emotional support. Find time each week, for example, to walk with or call someone in your support network.
Ask the doctor for more resources. Your loved one’s doctor can also be a great source. Find time to meet with them and ask about how you can best care for yourself as a caregiver. They can point you in the right direction. This can help you make the right changes for your health and the well-being of your loved one.
Photo Credit: Pornpak Khunatorn / Getty Images
CDC: “Caregiving for Family and Friends — A Public Health Issue.”
Caring Bridge: “10 Important Tips for Caregivers, from Caregivers.”
The Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging: “5 Ways Caregivers Can Improve Relationship Strain with the Person They Care For.”
National Institutes of Health: “Taking Care of Yourself: Tips for Caregivers.”
Mayo Clinic: “Caregiver stress: Tips for taking care of yourself.”
American Cancer Society: “Road To Recovery.”
Freefood.org: “ATLANTA, GA FREE FOOD RESOURCES.”
Meals on Wheels Atlanta.