Basics of Caregiving

The following are some basic suggestions to assist you in your caregiving journey:

If the person you care for is an adult it is important to remember that he or she has the right to make decisions about his or her life. You should respect that right unless your loved one has lost the capacity to make decisions for himself or herself or could put others in danger through his or her behaviour.

Whenever Possible, Offer Choices

The ability to make choices is a basic freedom, so provide choices whenever possible - from where to live to which cereals to eat at breakfast to what to wear. Choices enable us to express ourselves. As your loved one’s options become more limited, through health losses, financial constraints or social losses, you have to work harder to provide choices.

Do Only Those Things that Your Loved One Cannot Do

If your loved one is still capable of performing certain activities, such as paying bills or cooking meals, then encourage him or her to do so. Helping your loved one maintain a feeling of independence will make him or her feel better about being in a care-receiving situation.

Be Sure to Do What You Promise to Do

Many care recipients find it emotionally difficult to have to depend on others, and many worry about being a burden. So, with all these mixed feelings, your loved one will need to be able to rely on you. Do what you promise. Remember that your loved one needs you, even if he or she does not say so.

Take Care of Yourself

This may seem obvious, but caregivers often exhaust themselves by trying to handle caregiving responsibilities on top of normal daily routines. Providing care for a loved one while holding down a job, can lead to exhaustion. If you do become exhausted, you are more likely to make bad decisions or to take out your frustrations on your loved one. So take care of yourself; take time out to do things you enjoy even if it means saying no to your loved one. Caregivers who refresh themselves can be there for the long haul. You can read more about this in the section on the importance of self-care.

Your Family is Your First Resource

There can be deep emotional currents when a loved one becomes ill. Some family members will want to do everything, while others will do very little unless they are asked. Yet spouses, brothers and sisters, children and other relatives can do much to ease your caregiving burden.

Other Sources of Support

The patient’s healthcare team can also provide support to the caregiver. Be sure to speak to the physicians, nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other members of the healthcare team. Those people are there to help you and the patient, so reach out to them as needed. At no point are you alone in the caregiving journey.