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Advice to New Caregivers

Caregivers learn a number of useful skills from caregiving. DC caregivers share their insights with new caregivers.
  • A new caregiver needs to analyze his or her situation. You need to be sure the sacrifice is one you want to make and be truthful with yourself. Then go to workshops to learn what is required. Network with other caregivers or call somebody you know who has been through it. Do your own homework to find out what programs and services you and your elder are entitled to.
  • Have patience, be understanding, and pray your way through. Be prepared to sit down and think about what you may have to do. You may have to bathe and diaper the person. Ask yourself, "Is this something I feel I can do or will I need help?" Make a list of what needs to be done and make sure it gets done. Don't lose your sense of humor and do something, like exercising or listening to music, to take your mind off the situation.
  • Care for yourself, eat well, follow a good diet, and exercise. Do your best at giving care and let your patient know you don't mind caring for him or her. It will make things a lot more pleasant between you.
  • Keep yourself fit and able. Make use of the respite program to give you a break.
  • Try to empathize with the person being cared for. It's much easier when it's an act of love. Learn the skills you will need to care for someone who is sick and set limits and boundaries. Every day I try to allow my wife to be more independent. I don't do anymore for her then needs to be done. I find it's good therapy for her, and I'm not running up and down the stairs every five minutes like I used to.


Practical Tips: Here is some practical advice from DC caregivers for new caregivers.
  • Recruit persons you know, such as neighbors, relatives or friends, to be an informal emergency support network to look out for the elder during times you can't be there.
  • Purchase or lease a personal emergency response system (PERS) for an elder who lives alone so that help can be summoned in case of a fall or other medical emergency.
  • Evaluate the level of help your elder needs and find out what services are available in the community to help.
  • Consider moving to senior housing or assisted living if your present housing situation will not accommodate the elder's needs.
  • Talk to the elder and involve him or her in planning whenever possible.
  • Review health insurance coverage with the elder so you will know who pays for what and what is covered.
  • Plan ahead so that you won't have to make difficult decisions under stressful conditions.
Part of the Senior Service Network Supported by the D.C. Office on Aging