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Many people are caring for a chronically ill or
disabled spouse, parent, or other family member. Caregiving can be a rewarding
experience, especially when you know that your care makes a positive
difference. But caregiving can be difficult. There are three tips to being a
This topic will tell you more about these tips and how they
can help both you and the person you are caring for.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
care of yourself is your most important step as a caregiver. Caregiving can be stressful, even in the best of situations.
But when caregivers take time to care for themselves, good
things usually happen:
Here are some important things you need to find time
to do—just for yourself:
they don't admit it, people like to help themselves. Every time you do
something for a person that the person could have done without help, there is a
double loss. First, your effort may have been wasted. Second, the person has
missed an opportunity to help himself or herself.
As a caregiver,
your highest goal is to give the person you are caring for the power and the
permission to be in control of his or her own life (as much as possible). Every
act your loved one makes to maintain independence is a victory for you as a
Here are some things you can do to empower the person
you are caring for to do things independently:
The best answer to
the question, "Is there anything you need?" is "Yes."
need someone to stay here so I can go out." Or "Yes, I could really use a nap."
Letting others help can make your caregiving easier. Know where to find help
when you need it. The more support you have, the more successful you are likely
When family or friends offer to lend a hand, be ready with
specific ideas. Let them pick something they would like to do. For example, you
could ask them to:
There are other ways to find support. For example:
Services that may be useful to caregivers include the
Respite care may be the most
important service for caregivers. Respite services provide someone who will
stay with the person while you get out of the house for a few hours. If the
person you are caring for needs routine medical care, you may be able to
arrange to have the person stay in a nursing home for a few days while you get
away for a break.
Adult day centers are
"drop-off" sites where a person who does not need individual supervision can
stay during the day. This service is usually offered during working hours and
may or may not be available on weekends. Meals, personal care services, and
social activities are provided.
Adult foster care or board-and-care homes are private homes
where older adults receive around-the-clock personal care, supervision, and
meals. Some states require board-and-care homes to be licensed.
Nursing homes generally have two levels of care.
Intermediate care includes assistance with using the toilet, dressing, and
personal care for people who do not have serious medical conditions. Skilled
nursing care is usually for people who have just come from the hospital or for
others who have medical conditions that require more intensive nursing care.
Some facilities have special units for people with dementia.
Hospice programs provide social, personal, and medical
services for terminally ill people who wish to spend their remaining time at
home or in an environment less formal than a hospital or nursing home.
Support groups give you a chance to discuss
problems or concerns about caregiving with other caregivers.
learn whether these services are available in your community, look under
"Senior Citizen Services" in the Yellow Pages.
Take pride in your efforts. Being a
caregiver is not easy, and those who do it are special. Following the tips for
caregiving can help you feel good about yourself and the care you provide.
The National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) educates,
supports, empowers, and speaks up for the more than 50 million Americans who
care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability or the frailties of
old age. NFCA reaches across the boundaries of diagnoses, relationships, and
life stages to address the common needs and concerns of all family
This Web site is for caregivers and families. It offers
many caregiving resources, including where to find help, ways to take care of
others and yourself, how to join a caregiver support group, and more. There are
links to information about and help for finding support services in your
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008).
2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP
Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Other Works Consulted
Boal J, Loengard A (2007). Home care. In RJ Ham et
al., eds., Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach, 5th ed., pp. 172–177. Philadelphia: Mosby
Family Caregiver Alliance (2003). Fact Sheet: Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers. Available
Family Caregiver Alliance (2004). Fact Sheet: Caring for Adults with Cognitive and Memory Impairments.
Family Caregiver Alliance (accessed November 2008).
A Guide to Taking Care of Yourself. Available online:
Goldstein NE, Morrison RS (2007). Palliative care. In
RJ Ham et al., eds., Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach, 5th ed., pp. 194–205. Philadelphia: Mosby
Nusbaum NJ (2007). Rehabilitation. In RJ Ham et al.,
eds., Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach,
5th ed., pp. 179–193. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
Pinquart M, Sörensen S (2007). Correlates of physical
health of informal caregivers: A meta-analysis. Journals of Gerontology, 62B(2): 126–137.
Rakel RE, Strauch EM (2011). Care of the dying patient. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 53–72. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Stiles M, Walsh K (2011). Care of the elderly patient. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., p. 52. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Vitaliano PP, et al. (2003). Is caregiving hazardous
to one’s physical health? A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 129(6): 946–972.
August 13, 2013
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Shelly R. Garone, MD, FACP - Palliative Medicine
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