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Caregiver 101

Becoming a caregiver for a loved one comes with a new set of responsibilities, some of which may seem unfamiliar or intimidating. But unlike many other challenges in life, you are likely taking on these new responsibilities based on your love for your family.

Helpguide.org offers these tips to help new caregivers get started on their journey:

  • Learn as much as you can about your family member's illness or disability and about how to be a caregiver. The more you know, the less anxiety you'll feel about your new role and the more effective you'll be.

  • Seek out other caregivers. It helps to know you're not alone. It's comforting to give and receive support from others who understand what you're going through.

  • Trust your instincts. Remember, you know your family member best. Don't ignore what doctors and specialists tell you, but listen to your gut, too.

  • Encourage your loved one's independence. Caregiving does not mean doing everything for your loved one. Be open to technologies and strategies that allow your family member to be as independent as possible.

  • Know your limits. Be realistic about how much of your time and yourself you can give. Set clear limits, and communicate those limits to doctors, family members, and other people involved.

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Long-distance Caregiving

Anyone, anywhere, can be a long-distance caregiver, no matter your gender, income, age, social status or employment. If you are living an hour or more away from a person who needs your help, you're probably a long-distance caregiver.

Long-distance caregivers take on different roles. According to the National Institutes on Aging, you may:

  • Help with finances, money management or bill paying.

  • Arrange for in-home care — hire professional caregivers or home health or nursing aides and help get needed durable medical equipment.

  • Locate care in an assisted living facility or nursing home.

  • Provide emotional support and occasional respite care for a primary caregiver, the person who takes on most of the everyday caregiving responsibilities.

  • Serve as an information coordinator — research health problems or medicines, help navigate through a maze of new needs, and clarify insurance benefits and claims.

  • Keep family and friends updated and informed.

  • Create a plan and get paperwork in order in case of an emergency.

Over time, as your family member's needs change, so will your role as long-distance caregiver.

Learn More About Family Caregiving

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Updated: July 19, 2017