Things I Wish I Knew as a CaregiverYou can never be fully prepared to take on the role of a caregiver. Whether it is caring for an elderly adult in your life or a child with special needs, you will need to be able to face the challenges of caregiving on a regular basis. At the same time, you should know that there are some amazing experiences that can come from entering into this new care relationship with your loved one.

In this article, I hope to shed light on some ways you can make the most out of your role as a caregiver based on what I have learned from my own personal experiences.

Avoid Financial Fiascos

Many adults thrust into a caregiver role face the hurdles of time and money. There are only so many hours in a day, so when you begin to care for a loved one you must take time away from something else in your life. From my experience as a caregiver, this results in lost work hours that can add financial stress. You might also be juggling other new costs, such as those for essential equipment for your loved one or for care for the hours that you cannot tend to them. The result can be financial distress that will keep you up at night.

These stressors can be sidestepped, however, if you do your research to find ways to help keep costs down.

Reach out to your loved one’s insurance provider to ensure you are getting every break possible. Look into your options and research the Medicare coverage for your state if you are taking care of a senior loved one. Then, reach out to local community organizations or support groups that might offer special care discounts. By saving some money, you can take your mind off your accounts and refocus on care.

Stay Positive

Often we feel sad when we witness the slow degradation of a loved one’s health. While you might not be able to change their prognosis, you can “flip the script” and instead add a positive spin to the scenario. You can be a cheerleader at doctor’s appointment or when small goals are reached so you both can revel in the small joys together.

I remember sitting with my father when he went through his treatments, and as strange as it may sound, those were some of the best bonding moments between the two of us. Take in those moments! Though they aren’t always perfect, try to enjoy them for what they are.

Seek Support

It might seem strange to say, but when you assume the role of caregiver it is essential that you are a bit selfish.

Being a caregiver can drain you emotionally as you are saddled with demands and expectations that you might not be able to achieve. To help combat these frustrations, it is essential that you find a strong support network, which might be with a close friend who understands your caregiving relationship, or a professional therapist, or a support group where you can vent your feelings.

During my time as a caregiver, taking the time to grab a meal and talk to friends about my situation was the biggest form of relief. It allowed me to recharge so I could continue to take on my role as best as I could. By seeking support from others, you avoid the risk of releasing feelings of stress and defeat on your loved one and you also boost the sense that you yourself have your own cheerleader at your side.

Don’t Lose Your Focus…on You

You should also be fair to yourself. This means setting realistic goals for the care you provide, but it also means dedicating some time in your day or week that is just for you. It might be for a morning run or a yoga class after work. Regardless, taking personal time along with healthy eating and sleeping habits can help ensure that you are in the best place for caregiving.

From my experiences, there were many times when I questioned my ability as a caregiver. In those times it was important that I remind myself that I was doing the best I could.

Remember, if you are doing the best you can, that is good enough.

Lessen the Learning Curve

There is often a steep learning curve when you take on a new routine as a caregiver. It can be a struggle to make sense of the new ways you need to be there for your loved one. Fortunately, this new stage of your relationship can also bring you two closer together.

While I never intended to be a caregiver, I do know that stepping into the role made me a lot closer with my father. If I hadn’t taken on all the responsibilities that came along with it, I would’ve never had those opportunities to strengthen my relationship with him.

Embrace your new role as caregiver as an opportunity to bond with your loved one, keep these pointers in mind, and you can be well on your way to a successful caregiver experience.

–by Christian Worstell

Things I Wish I Knew as a Caregiver

Christian Worstell is a health and lifestyle writer living in Raleigh, NC.