Caregiver Tips for the Caregiver

If you currently take care of a parent, friend, sibling, child or friend, you are now a “Caregiver”.  It is a wonderful responsibility you have chosen in life and you and your loved one will benefit a great deal in life in many ways.  However we have learned from experience that you need to do some things for yourself in order to be the best caregiver possible for both of you.

  1. Number One:  Take care of Yourself!   You may feel like there’s not enough hours in the day to do it all and take care of yourself too, but believe us from experience:  You have to be the best “you” with proper rest, nutrition and support so that you too may support your loved one.
  2. Support:  It is key to contact and engage the best support possible.  You must line up the proper doctors that are specialists on your loved one’s issues.  Also engage existing family members so that they can also assist in appointments and other activities.
  3. Research:  find out all you can about your loved one’s issues so that you know best how to communicate, support and love the person you are supporting.
  4. Counseling:  We are now speaking of getting your own counseling so that you can establish and continue to realize boundaries and other issues that are not always obvious when dealing with these issues for everyone involved.

Our experience has shown us all that as Caregivers we all think we can manage so many crisis and resource issues to no end, however, we have learned the hard way that everyone, no matter how strong, has their limits of what they can deal with.

So our message is to take in the above tips seriously and employ them in your life everyday.

Remember to incorporate all 3 pillars you need to survive in a healthy way:

  1. Healthy Minds
  2. Healthy Bodies
  3. Healthy Lives

Concentrate on all of these core ideas and you both will be able to have the best lives possible!

Also, for those of you dealing with a new situation with a loved one or if you’re feeling like you’re going nowhere fast, we have a few tips below from our personal experiences.  These aren’t tips from doctors or other sources: only our experiences.  Always seek the help of a professional for yourself and your loved one first.  We hope these can help you to navigate your role as caregiver.

First and Foremost:  Make sure to take care of the following first if you haven’t already:

  1. Ask Youself and a Healthcare Professional:  Are they a “harm to themselves or others?” - This will be asked and it’s the most important first step.  Be honest.  If they’ve said anything about suicide, hurting someone, having weapons or anything similar tell the facility you may have taken them to immediately or dial 911 and explain the situation to get professional help.  There are special teams trained for situations just like this to get them to a hospital where they are evaluated, treated and get help for a period of time depending on their issues to start a treatment plan.  This is NOT “One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest”.  This is your neighborhood hospital that has a special area now to treat these issues in most cases.
  2. Get the right help - First, if you haven’t already, get your loved one to a psychiatrist and/or a doctor if they are not in a crisis mode as above.  If you feel they are not acting like themselves and its gone beyond anything you can handle or its gone on for a long time, get them professional help.  They may want to just talk to you but if they aren’t getting better, you’re not really helping them in the long run.  Certain types of mental health issues will worsen if not treated and then will take longer and longer to recover!   If neither of you can afford one, we have many clinics listed on the resource page that will help you identify how to get assistance from state or local clinics or how to find a sliding scale doctor.

Tips on how to get help for a loved one, options to consider and what to expect:

  1. Hospitals - If they won’t go via ambulance and you can’t wait for a clinic… go with them gently.  Go all the way into the doctor’s areas and let everyone know you are their “advocate”.  Sign papers so you can talk to anyone in touch with your loved one.
  2. Doctors in Clinics - If your only choice was to go to a clinic, you will most likely be told it will be a while before treatment,  since funding for hospitals, resources and urgent care facilities are sometimes limited .  If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have a while to wait and watch things get worse.  It’s important to give the social worker or evaluator the full story of all issues going on.  Encourage a faster timeframe strongly and explain the urgency.   They may refer you to the hospital at that point,  and you should go if needed.
  3. Sign Release Papers so you can get information for follow-up - Wherever  you go, sign release papers stating you are able to talk to any and all personnel about your loved one.  This is really important so that you can be aware of meds and/or changes they will need and appointments.  The new laws make it so you can’t talk to anyone even if you are a relative unless a release is signed.  It’s very important since many times they may not pay attention to these details and  you will have to help them.
  4. Getting them to Appointments - We all calendar our appointments and go to them but most likely your loved one won’t or won’t remember.  Add it to your calendar.  Call them and remind them.  Better yet, take the time to go with them to that appointment and inside the doctor’s office.  Make time for a lunch visit or some other mini event with it to make it pleasant.
  5. First meeting with the Dr./Psychiatrist - I highly recommend going into that meeting with them for at least the first half.  Let them know you are giving your observations.  Many patients don’t even realize something’s wrong and can “present” themselves as very together just inside that room.  Go in and explain in detail some incidents.  If your loved one gets mad so be it: it will at least display to the doctor what is really going on.  They only have about a half hour to make a decision on their mental health:  you can help give a clearer picture.  Make sure you understand the results of the appointment.  If there is a medication prescribed, ask what it is…why it is being prescribed…and what possible side effects it might cause. Also, if at all possible, bring along any existing medications, let them know if your loved one has substance abuse issues or any other specific behavior that might be helpful to the Doctor.
  6. Disability - If your loved one has been out of work, can’t seem to take care of themselves or has other serious living issues, meet with a social worker to go over the case.  It could be that they will need extra help to manage their lives and you should investigate this option with a social worker.
  7. Housing - Homelessness for a loved one is extremely difficult.  Keep in mind that many feel that it is a way to live without the boundaries we all face in the “regular world”.  There are resources out there and it’s a difficult thing to maneuver but check with your local clinic and ask to have someone work with you.  Depending on the severity there are programs for other items like water, electricity and other bill assistance.
  8. Substance Abuse - Self-medication occurs in such a high percentage of cases it is just good to ask if they are using anything like alcohol or drugs.  Look and ask for special doctors or groups if you don’t have the money where they deal with “co-occurring disorders” meaning they subject is dealing with not just mental illness but substances too.  For those that haven’t been treated, drugs and alcohol are their mental health drug of choice.
  9. Conservatorship - This is an option when you have a doctor that agrees that your loved one is not functioning on their own and you should be making decisions and helping them with other issues as well.  This may be needed when recovery from break-downs or substance abuse are needed, but they refuse and get worse.  It’s not an easy process but it’s been known to help immensely.

One Response to “Caregiver Tips for the Caregiver”

  1. Thankful
    August 17, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    thanks for this information, I relate to this completely!

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