Family caregivers (also known as “carers”) according to the definition are “relatives, friends, or neighbors who provide assistance related to an underlying physical or mental disability for at-home care delivery and assist in the activities of daily living (ADLs) who are unpaid and have no formal training to provide those services.” As life expectancies increase, medical treatments advance, and increasing numbers of people live with chronic illness and disabilities, more and more of us find ourselves caring for a loved one at home. Whether you’re taking care of an aging parent, a handicapped spouse, or looking after a child with a physical or mental illness, providing care for a family member in need is an act of kindness, love, and loyalty. Day after day, you gift your loved one your care and attention, improving their quality of life, even if they’re unable to express their gratitude. Regardless of your particular circumstances, being a family caregiver is a challenging role and likely one that you haven’t been trained to undertake. However, you don’t have to be a nursing expert, a superhero, or a saint in order to be a good family caregiver. With the right help and support, you can provide loving, effective care without having to sacrifice yourself in the process.


Accept your feelings

Caregiving can trigger a host of difficult emotions, including anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, and grief. It’s important to acknowledge and accept what you’re feeling, both good and bad. Having these feelings doesn’t mean that you don’t love your family member, they simply mean you’re human. Even when you understand why you’re feeling the way you do, it can still be upsetting. In order to deal with your feelings, it’s important to talk about them, don’t keep your emotions but find at least one person you trust to confide in, someone who’ll listen to you without interruption or judgment.

Find caregiver support

Even if you’re the primary family caregiver, you can’t do everything on your own. You’ll need help from friends, siblings, and other family members, as well as from health professionals. If you don’t get the support you need, you’ll quickly burn out which will compromise your ability to provide care, but before you can ask for help, you need to have a clear understanding of your family member’s needs.

Really connect with your loved one

When handled in the right way, caring for a loved one can bring meaning and pleasure to both you, the caregiver, and to the person you’re caring for. Staying calm and relaxed and taking the time each day to really connect with the person you’re caring for can release hormones that boost your mood, reduce stress, and trigger biological changes that improve your physical health. Avoid all distractions such as the TV, cell phone, and computer, make eye contact, hold the person’s hand or stroke their cheek, and talk in a calm, reassuring tone of voice.

Attend to your own needs

If you’re distracted, burned out, or otherwise overwhelmed by the daily grind of caregiving, you’ll likely find it difficult to connect with the person you’re caring for. That’s why it’s vital that you don’t forget about your own needs while you’re looking after your loved one.

Provide long-distance care

Many people take on the role of designated caregiver for a family member while living more than an hour’s travel away. Trying to manage a loved one’s care from a distance can add to feelings of guilt and anxiety and present many other obstacles. But there are steps you can take to prepare for caregiving emergencies and ease the burden of responsibility such as set up alarm system, arrange telephone check-ins, manage doctor and medical appointments and schedule regular communication.

If you overcome some of these challenges, you will make caregiving more rewarding for both you and the person you are caring for.

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