If You're a New Caregiver

What New Caregivers Need to Know


Editor’s Note: The statistics are staggering: According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, an estimated 29 percent of the U.S. adult population is providing care for someone who is ill, disabled or aged. That translates into 65.7 million people. And as the boomer population grows older, that number isn’t likely to decrease. When you’re faced with the prospect of caregiving in your own life, it’s easy to become overwhelmed as a new caregiver. But there are steps you can take to be in control of the situation. Here, from agingcare, a community of caregivers, are five steps that can help you navigate your new responsibilities:

Start with a diagnosis. Learning about a family member's diagnosis helps caregivers understand the disease process and plan ahead realistically.

Talk about finances and healthcare wishes. Having these conversations can be difficult, but completing Durable Powers of Attorney for finances and healthcare can help relieve anxiety and better prepare for the future.

Consider inviting family and close friends to come together and discuss the care needed. If possible, it's helpful to include the care recipient in this meeting. This meeting gives caregivers a chance to say what they need, plan for care and ask others for assistance.

Take advantage of community resources such as home delivered meals and adult day services. These resources help relieve the workload and offer a break. Look for caregiver educational programs that will increase knowledge and confidence. Find support. The most important thing is for caregivers to not become isolated as they take on more responsibility and as social life moves into the background. Online and in-person groups can be very helpful in connecting with others in the same circumstances. There are a number of nonprofit organizations that can help, including the Family Caregiver Alliance at (800) 445-8106 to learn about local services, or visit www.caregiver.org, and click on "Family Care Navigator." The federal National Institutes of Health also has an extensive website to give caregivers a comprehensive understanding of caregiving, and the resources they can take advantage of. Click here to learn more. 
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