En español | Being a caregiver for a parent or loved one can be rewarding, but it can also be grueling and sometimes frustrating. It's important to take care of yourself, too. Follow these 11 rules, and you'll be on your way to providing your loved one with the best possible care.
See also: Caregivers can get paid.
1. I will not silently shoulder the lion's share of care.
If you feel you're carrying too much of the burden, say so. No one can read your mind and others may not realize that you're overwhelmed. So don't avoid telling them — calmly, and without accusation or blame. Spell out what they can do to help: grocery shopping, driving to medical appointments, covering your carpool day for the kids, or even treating you to dinner and a movie.
2. I will not feel guilty because I don't live nearby.
Regret weighs heavily on long-distance caregivers, who often shift their schedules, miss work, spend huge amounts of money and time on travel, plus hours talking to doctors and financial experts — yet share none of the satisfaction, however fleeting, of 24/7 caregivers. This is not your fault.
A few options to help from afar: Hire a geriatric care manager you trust to help coordinate local care services. You can find one through AARP or the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. Call the local postmaster near your loved one to arrange for the free Carrier Alert program, In this program, mail carriers alert you, or a social service agency, if mail and trash have piled up, indicating a shift in a senior's health status.
3. I will get organized.
Create a master contact list (including names, phone numbers, email addresses) of nearby friends, neighbors, doctors, clergy, housing managers or apartment front-desk staff. Include the local pharmacist, who can be reached in the event of an emergency. Distribute the contact list to all family members and, if your loved one still lives at home, prominently post a copy where everyone in the house can see it.
4. I will join a support group.
Every caregiver needs a talking buddy to listen while he or she vents. Talking to people who have been there, done that, is even more helpful. A supprt group, whether it's online or in your community, can give you guidance, tips and solace. So can friends and co-workers who have also been down this road. So if you need help — or just need someone to hug — ask.