We all have important roles we play within our families – mother, father, son, daughter – the list is just about endless. And for most of our lives our parents and elders are responsible for our care. But as our parents and grandparents age, we may find ourselves in the unexpected role of acting as their caregiver. The role of family caregiver can be physically and emotionally exhausting, especially if we are not prepared to take on this role. You may believe your priority as a family caregiver is to provide the care your loved one needs. But you will not be capable of providing the best quality of care if you don’t take care of yourself first. Here are some tips to help you be a better family caregiver. 

Self-Care Is the Key to Successful Family Caregiving 

If you will provide care for a loved one, you must ensure you are as healthy as possible. This means taking care of both your physical and mental health. You will likely experience a range of emotions throughout your time as a caregiver. It is important to know that this range of emotions is normal. You shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to a friend, family member, or a professional such as a counselor to discuss these emotions if needed. It will also be important for you to take breaks and schedule personal time for yourself. You should make sure there is time in your schedule for you and continue to do the things you love. The better you take care of your own health, the better caregiver you can be.  

Educate Yourself on Your New Role as a Family Caregiver 

As adults we prepare ourselves for just about any role we take on. When we start a new job, we go through on-boarding and training. When we are about to become parents, we take new parent classes and read parenting books. Stepping into the role of a family caregiver is no different. It will be important for you to learn as much as possible about the specific needs of your loved one and your new role as a caregiver. Caregiving is largely a self-educated role. But there are many resources you can use to gather this information such as online resources, community resources, and talking with other caregivers. 

Stay Organized & Communicate with Your Loved One’s Other Professional Caregivers 

It will be very important for you to be organized as a family caregiver. There will be a lot of things you need to keep track of when it comes to the care of your loved one. You will keep track of medications, appointments, and other general living needs. You will need to establish a set schedule for yourself in the role of caregiver. You may also want to use technology to your advantage to set reminders and alarms on your computer or phone. 

You will also communicate with doctors and other professional caregivers on behalf of your loved one. Bring a list of questions you have for their doctors and something to take notes with during appointments. If you are unsure or confused about any care instructions they provide you with, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.