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Smart Habits of Highly Effective Caregivers

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Dr. James D. Huysman

Caring for the Caregiver / / January 13, 2015

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In order to be the best caregiver for a loved one you have to remember to make yourself and your health a priority. By caring for yourself first and incorporating these 7 smart habits into your lifestyle you will find that you are on the right path to becoming the most effective caregiver for yourself, and your loved one. 

1. Take Your Oxygen First!

Join a support group for caregivers and make time to engage in other activities to balance your caregiving duties with your personal body, mind & spiritual needs.  It’s important for you to have a place to vent and deal with your feelings.  Above all, don’t forget that you are human.

2. Ask Questions and GET ANSWERS

Learn as much as you can about your caree’s primary disease and underlying conditions. In the long run, your loved one’s medical team will appreciate the fact that you are informed and be more willing to share information with you.

3. Be the Go-To Contact (or support the one who is)

If you are in the position of being the primary caregiver, make yourself known as the go-to person for your caree’s medical team to confer with regarding your loved one.  Having one family member as the primary contact enables you to be an effective liaison between your family and your loved one’s medical team.  If possible, set up regular meetings or conference calls with a social worker or geriatric care manager for other family members to voice their concerns. 

4. Get the Training You Need

Should there be necessary medical procedures you are expected to perform with which you are not familiar or confident in doing, it is your right to be trained in how to do them.  Don’t be shy about asking for help - ever.  As the backbone of long-term care in the US, the ACA has a provision for this. 

5. Communicate with Your Loved One

Spending quality time with someone who is ill is a not-so-random act of kindness. It is the part of effective caregiving that has the most impact on your caree’s quality of life (and your serenity).  Most of us don’t like not being able to do things for ourselves.  Having to depend on others for basic necessities can make some people downright ornery and difficult to deal with.  You can assist in making your loved one more accepting of their situation by treating them with kindness and respect, especially when they are working your last nerve!  Let them know they are not alone and encourage them all along the way. 

6. Ask for help when you need it

Rely on your village.  Just as your loved one is not alone, neither are you.  You are not an island.  Do not isolate. Use all available resources to assist you.  Don’t have a village?  Well now you get to create one.

7. Live Your Life!

Your life is not over when you become a caregiver; it’s just different. Giving care to a sick, frail or disabled loved one is not your only life’s work.  It might be what you presently do, but it is not the be all and end all of who you are.  Your life is what you make it; choose wisely!

About The Author
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James D “Dr. Jamie” Huysman, PsyD, LCSW is well-known for his work fiercely advocating on behalf of family and professional caregivers. From running a national caregiver support foundation,contributing to the  AARP Foundation/NASW’s collective “New Guidelines for Caregivers of Older Adults” and co-authoring “Take Your Oxygen First”, to his expert videos on Caregiver Connections for UHC TV, he is a champion of behavioral health and a patient-centered medical culture that is prepared to meet the needs of those they serve.  He works as VP of Provider Relations and Government Affairs for WellMed Medical Management and was recently named an Advisor to the Caron Foundation’s Senior Treatment Program.

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