1. Be realistic about the diseases you face and your own capabilities. Try to set limits around your caregiving…a process which will take time.
2. Realize that you operate on two levels – intellectual and emotional – and that they don’t always coincide. Listen to both your heart and your head when making decisions.
3. Learn to be an advocate for the care-receiver and for yourself. Ask questions constantly. “I don’t know” is a legitimate starting point from which to begin gaining the knowledge and finding the answers you need.
4. Take each day as it comes when you are providing care. Look for the positive side of being a caregiver by focusing on what is still possible for both of you.
5. Admit when you need help. Don’t be a martyr. Share what you know and how you feel with others. Try a support group; remember that other caregivers are best source of unconditional support. Before you ask relatives, neighbours or friends for help, have a list ready of things people can do for you. It makes asking for help easier.
6. Remember that you are the expert on the person needing care: outsiders can only offer advice. If you disagree with a suggestion made to you, work with others to find solutions that will work; caregiving is a two-way street.
7. Be aware that things change over time. Create a plan for emergencies and for the possibility that you may no longer be able to be the caregiver. Try to have all legal documents – wills, powers of attorney, advance directives – in place.
8. Consider that love may be doing what people need, not always what they want.
9. You are not alone when you feel angry, frustrated, resentful or guilty. All caregivers suffer from these emotions; it comes with the territory. All you can do is your best.
10. Look after your own needs. Try to maintain your own health and lifestyle, friendships and activities.
Take a few moments each day to repeat these thoughts to yourself:
- I will accept the reality of things
- I am capable
- I will confront my emotions honestly
- I will focus on living in the present
- I will be truthful about how I am feeling
- I will set limits and maintain ‘self’
- I will be proud of saying: “I am a family caregiver!”