Not everyone can afford to hire an in-home nurse or professional caregiver. Today, there are around 45.3 million unpaid, non-professional caregivers in the United States taking care of a loved one.
Medical professionals go through years of education and training on how to be caregivers. Some family members or friends, however, fulfill that role out of need and love.
If you find yourself suddenly in a caregiving role, you may be wondering where to start. Our community members with caregiving experience shared some great advice.
Here are a few tips on how to be the best caregiver you can be:
1. Practice Open Communication
Our community mentions communication as the most important factor when trying to be a good caregiver. Caregivers should try their best to communicate with patience, understanding and empathy.
A lot of the times, a person being taken care of can feel like they’re a burden or a nuisance. Healthy communication and reassurance can help prevent that.
“Communicate. Always and often. Build relationships by being kind, loving, and affirming.”
And don’t forget to keep communication open between you and your other family and friends, as well. Asking for help isn’t always easy, but remember: those who care about you want to support you.
2. Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
When you’re constantly having to tend to someone who’s ill, it’s easy to forget about your own needs. Some caregivers are so overwhelmed that they are unable to take time for their other loved ones or hobbies, and many feel guilt being away from the person in need.
However, we can’t expect to be a good caregiver if we are not in good shape ourselves. Prioritizing your own health, physical and mental, is crucial for both you and your loved one.
To help take care of yourself, try these tips:
- Join a caregiver support group
- Remember to breathe
- Get some laughs
- Talk to someone once a day
- Get adequate rest
Check out more helpful suggestions on self-care for caregivers.
“The most important thing is to first take care of yourself… even if it is a quiet ride in the car, a walk or even a trip to the grocery store. You cannot take care of a loved one if you are not taking care of yourself.”
Being patient is important in two ways. First, it’s helpful to be patient with yourself. You will make mistakes—all humans do—but remember: You are trying your best, and no one is perfect.
It’s also good to be aware that sometimes communication can be difficult when you’re caregiving. Your loved one who is going through a hard time might say or do things that hurt your feelings. In that situation, you can try your best to be patient and empathetic by not taking things personally. They’re going through a hard time too.
It may also be painful or frustrating to see your loved one unable to take care of themselves the way they used to. Viewing these situations with a lens of understanding and acceptance can be a way to battle the discouragement.
“One has to have patience, kindness, understanding, energy (even when you think you can’t go any further ) love, compassion.”
“Make them feel like they matter instead of making them feel like a bother. And don’t treat them like a baby when they have accidents – treat them with respect and dignity.”
4. Establish Boundaries
When spending so much time with one person, and sharing their most intimate moments, it’s still important to establish some boundaries. These boundaries include you knowing your own limitations and what you are comfortable doing for that person.
Boundaries also apply to the person receiving the care. How do they wish to be cared for? What are their likes and dislikes? These boundaries will allow both people to be happier.
5. Remind Yourself Why You’re Doing This
Sometimes, you can become a caregiver out of necessity or a sudden unfortunate life event. But, at the core of any of this is love and empathy. Caregivers love and want the best for the person they’re with. You can use that compassion to keep you motivated through hard times.
“Caregiving support is fraught with danger, but self-examination of your own motivations during the caregiving experience is of the utmost importance.”
Above All, Give Care from the Heart
Above all, a good caregiver is simply one who cares. You are not expected to be perfect, so make sure you give yourself just as much love and patience as you offer your loved one.
Now we want to hear it from you: What tips would you offer to a new caregiver? Leave your advice in the comments below!