In a previous post, I discussed the unique hardships young caregivers experience when faced with the responsibility of caring for a loved one. A dynamic that is especially true when young caregivers are also going through life transitions like finishing up college, embarking on a new career and/or starting a new family. In this post, I share a few strategies young caregivers can employ to help make caregiving more manageable:
1) Identify what needs to be done - make a list of what needs to be done for your loved one and for yourself. The list for your loved one should include everything from quick tasks like picking up medications to more intense tasks like physically assisting them with bathing, dressing, eating, etc. as well as everything in between. The list for yourself should include tasks and goals associated with your career, relationships, and anything else that pertains to your personal life.
2) Be realistic and structured with your time - Having such a list is meant to visually show you what your day really looks vs. what you think it looks like. Having a greater understanding of what your day to day responsibilities are can, in many cases, help you create more structure. More structure has the potential to reduce any anxiety that can arise from feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you are losing control.
Once you know what needs to be structured, the next step is to utilize tools like a calendar, a notepad, etc. Whether used in a hard copy or an app format, such tools can help remind you about appointments, deadlines, events, pertinent contact information and important discussions with your loved one's medical team and service collaborators. Use of a calendar, specifically, can also help you maintain a level of sanity as it help prevents overbooking or overpromising.
3) Learn how to delegate - Now that you have a clear picture of what you must handle for yourself and your loved one, identify and explore which tasks can be handled by others. In other words, if you find yourself spending a lot of time going to the grocery store to pick up essentials or escorting your loved one to doctor's appointments, perhaps there is someone else in your family or social circle who can pitch in. Delegating tasks can relieve the stress associated with trying to manage it all.
4) Rally the troops - In order to delegate, it means you have to "ask for help" - one of the hardest things for caregivers to do. While there are numerous reasons to explain this hardship, some of the most common include fear of being judged and/or having pride. Rallying the troops basically entails finding resources in your communitythat can help make your life more manageable. This can include home care assistance, shopping services, food/medication delivery services, etc. In other words, the goal is to find other individuals and/or programs that can help out so that you don't have to do it all.
The strategies mentioned above are simply a starting point I recommend for the majority of caregivers I work with. Once such strategies are implemented, it then allows us to get a better sense of what will work and what needs to be modified. Caring for a loved one while navigating life milestones can be difficult but it is not impossible. Hopefully these strategies can help you get a good start.
Have you found any of the above to be helpful in your caregiving experience? Do you have other strategies you would recommend to other caregivers? If so, please share so below.
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.