Resource Guide for Family Caregivers
Common sense basics

Seek information and use community resources

Investigate community resources that might be helpful in any area of caregiving with which you are involved, including information on how you can better cope and take care of yourself as the caregiver. These can include caregiver support agencies and disease-specific organizations  (e.g., the Alzheimer’s Society, the Cancer Society). Consider using in-home services to cook, clean, or aid in the personal care tasks of the care receiver.

These may be available through the health care system or you can purchase them privately. Take advantage of volunteer services that can include friendly visitors for your loved one and volunteer drivers to appointments. Refer to the numerous information listings included in this publication designed to help you through almost any challenge or question you might come across.

Set realistic goals

It is important to set realistic goals for yourself as a caregiver, given the multitude of demands on your time and the responsibilities that you have to the care receiver, yourself, and to other individuals in your social network. Recognize what you can and cannot do, define your priorities and act accordingly. Ask for help from the health care system, and from other people - your family, friends or neighbours. Prepare a list of tasks that anyone can help you with, no matter how small; it can make a big difference in your day. This can include help with meal preparation, getting a ride somewhere or running an errand. Keep things simple. Limiting what you can or cannot do to ―one step at a time can help reduce feelings of being overwhelmed with the big picture.

…self-care is one of the most important things that family caregivers can do, both for themselves and for those for whom they provide care.

Communication

Effective communication with others can save you time, minimize confusion and misunderstanding, and goes a long way to ensuring you get what you need in terms of support and services. Effective communication involves careful listening, being aware of your feelings in the moment, being clear in your requests or inquiries, and being assertive about your own needs without impinging on the rights and needs of others. Reviewing your own communication style and becoming aware of potential behaviours that can exacerbate a situation becomes especially useful in a crisis. Learning and practicing good communication can ease the stress. Also, do not expect that others will ask you if you need help. It is up to you to do the asking!

For more information and tips on communication, see Section 5 of this Resource Guide on Teamwork.

Ask for help from the health care system, and from other people – your family, friends or neighbours.

Communicate with your family and friends

• Keeping the lines of communication open with your close family and friends can provide you with much of the emotional and physical support in your day to day tasks.

• At times, relatives or friends will advise you on how you should be providing care. Although they mean well, often this may cause you to feel that you are not doing enough or you are not good enough. If this is the case, keep in mind that they are only seeing one piece of a much larger picture and lack the benefit of seeing the gradual changes with the care recipient. Sometimes criticism may be a response to their own guilt in not sharing in the caregiving responsibilities. In this light, try to listen to what is being said. If you and the care receiver both feel you are managing the situation well then continue doing what you are doing. Rather than becoming defensive about the unsolicited advice or criticism, thank them for their concern and provide them with regular updates on the family member’s situation. You may also want to suggest how they can be involved in supporting you and the person you are caring for.

Consider joining a caregiver support group

In addition to providing very useful information, support groups can provide a unique opportunity for caregivers to come together in a safe and supportive environment to share their feelings and experiences.

Being part of a support group can help a caregiver feel less isolated and provide the opportunity for mutual support, friendship and information exchange. In the Capital Regional District there are several support groups specific to family caregivers that include disease and condition-specific caregiver support. Contact the Family Caregivers’ Network to find out more information.