6 tips for new caregivers

As loved ones age, they may require assistance with completing daily tasks or managing their finances. Oftentimes, adult children step into a caregiving role after a parent has had a health scare or demonstrated that he or she may benefit from extra help.

Becoming a caregiver may seem like a natural choice for some, but others may feel trepidation at first. There are, however, several tips new caregivers should keep in mind as they begin to care for an aging loved one.

1. Become well-informed about your aging loved one’s condition
If your loved one was recently diagnosed with a medical condition that requires a great deal of attention, it’s important that you conduct research about the condition and how it can be treated. After speaking with a medical professional, seek out reputable sources that can provide more information about the history of the condition and tactics that may be effective in making your parent more comfortable. For example, if he or she was recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, visit the official site for the Alzheimer’s Association to read recommendations, statistics and research concerning the disease.

2. Consider the benefits of technology
Digital devices, such as tablets and smartphones, have provided caregivers with a wealth of useful features. Tracking technology, for example, has made caregiving easier for those caring for seniors who tend to wander. Alternatively, devices placed in certain areas around the home are able to notify caregivers if a loved one has fallen or is in distress. Many of these devices can be linked to a caregiver’s smartphone, allowing him or her to receive a notification and swiftly respond.

3. Encourage healthy living habits
One of the most important parts of caregiving is ensuring your loved one is leading a healthy lifestyle. Physical fitness is crucial for senior care, as older adults should try to participate in regular exercise in order to bolster their strength. Caregivers have many options when it comes to promoting fitness, ranging from purchasing virtual fitness games to accompanying a loved one to the gym. Caregivers should also try to encourage healthy eating habits, as nutritious food can greatly improve one’s mental, physical and cognitive health.

4. Don’t neglect your own health
While caring for your loved one is important, ensuring your own health doesn’t suffer is equally imperative. Caregivers can become so engrossed in a loved one’s well-being, they often put their own health at risk. Adult children must remember to practice what they preach – making time for exercise, eating a proper diet and setting aside time for hobbies are all important to maintaining caregiver health.

5. Rely on support systems
Even if you are the only caregiver supporting your aging parent, you are never alone. There are a variety of support groups for adult children who are caring for their parents. Depending on your parent’s condition, you may be able to find a more specialized support group to best meet the needs of both you and your parents. Be sure to reach out to official organizations and senior communities in your neighborhood, as both may have a list of support groups in your area.

6. Know when it’s time to consider retirement living
When you’re caring for an aging parent, it’s important to recognize when they may require more help than you can reasonably provide. Retirement living is one option that may benefit both you and your parent. If you’re not sure whether your loved one is best suited for a senior community, take Chartwell’s “Is It Time?” survey to view helpful recommendations. Alternatively, consider reading Chartwell’s whitepaper, titled “Supporting a loved one in moving to a retirement home,” for more information about starting the conversation with a loved one.