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Caring for the Caregiver

Tips, Resources and Support for Those 
Caring for an Elderly Parent or Loved One

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving, nearly 30% of all U.S. households now provide care to an elderly family member, friend or loved one. That’s about 44 million Americans providing 37 billion hours of unpaid, “informal” care each year.

In small doses, this sort of commitment can be manageable. But juggling the often, competing demands of caregiving with the responsibilities of the caregiver’s own life, can create physical and emotional challenges.

As a caregiver, it is important for you to find a balance and take care of your own health. This article offers some practical advice to help you on your caregiver journey.

Celebrate the Rewards of Being a Caregiver

Despite the challenges, caring for a parent, spouse or loved one can have meaningful and lasting benefits:

  • Enjoy peace of mind
  • Create new and positive memories
  • Honor your loved one
  • Relationship building
  • Learn new things

Look Past the Obvious

You can’t always count on your loved one to tell you when something is wrong, so it is important for you to observe them for even the slightest change. Instead of labeling their actions as behaviors, think of them as their way of communicating to you that something is wrong. Some things to look for:


  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Becoming frustrated, anxious or confused
  • Bruises, scratches, burns
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Medication mismanagement
  • Poor judgment
  • Not paying bills
  • Vision, hearing, gait or balance problems
  • Frequent falls
  • Complaints about pain

Caregiver Stress is Real!

Symptoms of caregiver stress include depression, anxiety, anger, declining health, guilt and burnout. Caregiver stress can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, compromised immune system and exhaustion. The best way to care for your loved one is to care for yourself. Tell yourself you will:

  • Ask for and accept help
  • Arrange for a respite getaway
  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do
  • Keep your sense of humor
  • Join a support group
  • Continue to pursue your own interests
  • Celebrate your successes
  • Keep a journal
  • Attend a caregiver class or seminar
  • Approach your role one day, one hour, one minute at a time

Accept a Helping Hand

As a caregiver, it is important for you to know when to ask for help:


  • The physical demands are simply too much to handle
  • The skill level of care required is beyond your capability
  • The relationship with your loved one has become adversarial
  • The strain on family, spouse and/or work relationships is too great
  • You feel you’ve reached your breaking point
  • Your physical or emotional health is deteriorating
  • The financial burden is unsustainable

Caregiver Checklist

In the event of an emergency, a caregiver checklist can be very valuable. Keep a copy readily accessible in your home, your loved one’s home, and that of a friend or neighbor. Include:

  • Emergency contact list
  • Current medication list
  • Health conditions, including known allergies
  • Physician and hospital preferences
  • Power of Attorney for Health Care & Finance
  • Living Will and Do or Do Not Resuscitate Designation
  • Secondary caregiver contact information (if you are incapacitated)
  • Registration with Early Notification Program (check with local law enforcement)
  • House keys/car keys (extra sets)
  • Pet care instructions

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