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9 Ways to Make It Better

Here's advice about relieving the burdens of caregivers, from veteran caregivers and the experts who have dedicated their careers to the issue.

1. COMPROMISE

Work hard to avoid family fights and resentments if you’re a sibling or a relative of the primary caregiver. Don’t let old issues pull you apart. This is a time to stick together.

2. COORDINATE

Offer your services if you have skill with insurance forms, Medicare, or legal documents. Try to help prepare a game plan for when an illness becomes more severe or fatal. Adult kids often avoid that conversation.

3. ENCOURAGE

Help the caregiver find some type of professional support. If he or she is not comfortable with in-person support groups, suggest online chatrooms. Many organizations have them.

4. FACILITATE

Ask somebody who can be objective—a cleric, a social worker—to act as a negotiator in stressful situations where the caregiver may be struggling with the patient, other family members, or even health care providers.

5. INVESTIGATE

Find books, go to websites, or get in touch with organizations that can help caregivers learn about the illness of the person they’re caring for; it will save them time.

6. ORGANIZE

Work with the caregiver to make a list of people who can be called upon for different duties, if needed. If time is what is needed, help the caregiver schedule friends to work shifts.

7. DISCUSS

Ask the caregiver to tell his or her story or keep a journal. Writing things down can be a release and might help others better understand the caregiver’s needs.

8. PLAN

Think about the services that you can offer, and be specific with the caregiver. Making yourself clear makes it easier for the caregiver to ask for your help.

9. SOCIALIZE

Create events for the caregiver and, if possible, the person for whom he or she is caring. Include them in community and family activities.

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