Advice for Caregivers

Caregiving can be a difficult journey. But you are not alone. There are many resources available to you that other caregivers have found helpful. Below is advice gathered from the experiences of many caregivers. For more information or to talk to someone about resources available to you in the Twin Cities East Metro, call 651-280-CARE (2273) or email caregiving@wilder.org.
Jump to:

Getting Started as a Caregiver

Becoming a caregiver often happens suddenly. Someone has a stroke, falls and breaks a hip, or begins showing signs of memory loss–and you find yourself cast in a new role. In addition to being a daughter, son, husband, wife, friend or partner, you are caring, advocating, and navigating. What should you do first? Below is a list of simple suggestions that will go a long way in equipping you for success as a caregiver:
Acknowledge Your Role as a Caregiver
This is often harder than it sounds. We have longstanding relationships with our loved ones–relationships with their own set of habits, rituals and expectations. When circumstances require us to take on the role of caregiver, these relationships don’t end, but they do evolve. Embracing, rather than avoiding, this new role will allow you to get the information and support you need to provide confident care to your loved one.
Action Steps
  • Talk with the person about the new role you will be playing. A candid conversation now may save you a great deal of conflict in the future.
  • Set limits on what you can do. No one can do it all. Asking for help will be one of the most important skills you will need as a caregiver.
Build Your Support Team
People feel valued and included when you ask them for help. Not everyone can help with every type of task–but it’s possible to find a task that fits those who offer support. Set the expectation now for yourself and others that you don’t intend to be a superhero. And, keep in mind that your support team goes beyond friends and family – it may include healthcare professionals, community services and people you hire.
Action Steps
  • Hold a support team meeting. Bring together your family and friends and the loved one you are caring for (when possible), to make a plan and divide up responsibilities. Wilder can help you facilitate this meeting – see Family Meetings.
  • Find a caregiver support group. Meeting others who are also playing the role of caregiver can be encouraging and provide invaluable insights. See Caregiver Support Groups for more information.
Get Organized
Gather together key documents, medical information and contact lists so you are prepared when decisions need to be made or emergiencies arise. It's likely that you or someone on your support team will need to be as familiar with the older adult's financial, medical and legal affairs as you are of your own.

Action Steps

  • Learn as much as you can about your loved ones health. This includes not only their current health conditions, but their health history and insurance coverage as well.
  • Review or create legal documents and financial plans. A variety of legal agreements exist that can make your ability to provide care easier –healthcare directives and durable power of attorney are just two examples. An Elderlaw Attorney is often an invaluable resource in navigating the process of creating these documents.
 
Support staff are always willing answer questions and help you take these action steps. Call us at 651-280-CARE or email us at caregiving@wilder.org.

Navigating Family Dynamics

The old adage “it takes a village” is just as true when it comes to caring for an older adult as for raising a child. The job of caregiving is multifaceted, intensive, and most often long-term. While friends, neighbors and coworkers often share in the caregiving, families are often at the center.

Modern families are as varied as the individuals that make them up. However you define “family” – the dynamics that exist amongst your group are sure to show themselves as you take on the challenge of working together to care for an older adult. Below are a set of simple suggestions for how best to navigate family dynamics:

Know the Sources of Tension Before you Encounter Them

Ideally, providing care for an older adult is an opportunity for family members to come together and offer mutual support to one another. Unfortunately, for many families the process results in tension and conflict. The greater your level of self-awareness and willingness to reflect on the family dynamics at play – before you attempt to create a plan – the more likely you are to avoid common pitfalls.

Action Steps:

  • Reflect on historical roles each member of your family played. You may be adults now, but past wounds and childhood rivalries can quickly reemerge. Knowing the roles people are likely to default to can help you strategize more effectively and not be caught off guard if past conflicts are brought to the surface.
  • Recognize each person is on their own journey. Accepting the diagnosis of a severe illness or the loss of mobility in a friend or family member is difficult. Be aware that some members of your family may still be in denial while you are hard at work caregiving.

Strive for an Equitable Division of Duties

It is often impossible for every member of a family to provide an equal share of the caregiving. It’s also often the case that the bulk of the caregiving responsibility falls to one family member, with very little help provided by the rest of the family. Neither of these situations is desirable. Rather than working for equality amongst family members – try for equity, every person contributing to the best of their ability given their life circumstances.

Action Steps:

  • Personalize each family member’s caregiving duties. Think through all of the tasks you need help with – then match tasks to people. Be sure to offer people a few options, and set realistic expectations based on each person’s ability and circumstances.
  • Check-in regularly to evaluate your division of care. Once you have a plan in place, evaluate it regularly. Are the tasks you assigned working, have circumstances changed for a particular family member? Check-in with your family members often to find out what’s working and what’s not.

Utilize a Caregiver Coach to Facilitate a Family Meeting

If you are struggling to come together as a family, often bringing in a neutral facilitator to help you discuss the care and formulate a plan is the best next step. Caregiver Coaches are trained professionals who have worked with many families to navigate the same challenges you are facing and can not only help keep the conversation moving forward they can offer useful resources and information.

Action Steps:

  • Contact a Caregiver Coach and ask for their services facilitating a Family Meeting. Your coach can help you strategize about inviting family members to the meeting, where to hold it, and what realistic goals might be for your time together.
  • Express your feelings honestly and directly in the meeting. While your coach will facilitate the discussion, you will be playing an important role. Be clear that you want and need each member of your family to be involved.
 
To find a Caregiver Coach in the East Metro, call 651-280-CARE (2273) or email caregiving@wilder.org

Asking for Help

As caregivers we can often come up with a laundry list of reasons not to ask for help: I’m too busy, I don’t want to burden people, or I can handle it myself. Asking for help can be challenging – but often the biggest challenges to overcome exist in our own minds. People feel valued and important when you ask them for help. Often they have wanted to be helpful all along – they just didn’t know how.
 
Below is a list of strategies other caregivers have used as they have begun asking for help:

Let Go of Guilt

Keeping up with the demands of caregiving and the rest of your life will exceed your abilities at times. It’s just reality. Rather than blaming yourself or feeling guilty when things fall between the cracks, see it as an indicator that more help is needed.

Action Steps:

  • Call a friend, family member, or Caregiver Coach. Share how you are feeling and ask them to help you strategize about getting more help.
  • Join a Caregiver Support Group. Realizing you are not the only one struggling can relieve a great deal of guilt.

You can find a Caregiver Coach, a Caregiver Support Group and other resources by calling our Care Line at 651-280-CARE (2273) or emailing us at caregiving@wilder.org

Remember Why You are Asking

Sometimes all it takes is a change of mindset. It’s important to remember why you are asking for help: because you want the person you are caring for to live with dignity and get the best care possible. When you thoughtfully ask others for help, you communicate that you trust and want to include them in this important part of your life.

Action Steps:

  • Brainstorm a list of all the people you could ask for help. Be sure to include both people close to you and those close to the older adult you are caring for. The longer the list the better. Don’t rule anyone out at this stage.
  • Personalize your requests for help. Think through all of the tasks someone could help you with – then match tasks to people. Be sure to offer people a few options, starting with the one that would be most helpful to you. (Remember asking a friend to call and check-in on you each week is equally as important as asking someone to pick up a prescription!) 

Don't Start with the Most Difficult Ask

When the task of asking for help is in front of us, we often picture ourselves asking the person we are most intimidated by or think will respond most negatively. Start simply and build some momentum before you tackle those requests. Begin by asking your spouse or closest friends for the things they can do to help. Learn what makes asking easier for you, and as you build confidence, move onto the more difficult conversations.

Action Steps:

  • Set a goal for yourself and keep track of your progress. You could ask one person for help each week or decide you will tackle your entire list in the next six weeks. As more help comes your way, note your progress and congratulate yourself!
  • Utilize Care Management services or an online tool. Once you start getting help, it’s important to keep track of who is handling what and to help others remember their commitments. Lotsa Helping Hands or Carenextion are great resources.  
 

 Quick Links

 
 

 Contact Us

 
​651-280-CARE (2273), caregiving@wilder.org
 

 Supporting Caregivers

 

Participants of Wilder's Caregiver Services talk about the importance of seeking support.

 

 Follow Us!

 
Join us on FacebookJoin us on Twitter