Are you the caregiver for a family member living in California? Were you aware that November is National Family Caregivers Awareness Month? During the month of November family caregivers are celebrated because these incredible people provide a tremendous amount of both paid and unpaid care to aging loved ones both in the state of California and in the nation. In fact, across the nation there are over 53 million family caregivers working hard for family, friends, and neighbors.

In honor of National Family Caregivers Awareness Month, we want to take time to recognize family caregivers and what they accomplish. Of course the goal of the caregiver is to care for his or her loved one, however, we also need to make sure our caregivers are taking care of themselves.  Often, they do not want to focus on themselves but their health is critical. It is important for everyone to look for ways to care for our caregivers. We would like to share seven important tips all family caregivers should know and consider implementing in their own lives.

1. As a caregiver, be sure to take care of your own health. One of the biggest challenges facing family caregivers is taking care of themselves. As a caregiver you know how demanding it is to care for a dependent loved one. Often, it can be so overwhelming that caregivers end up putting the needs of the loved one first. Unfortunately, this may result in the caregiver suffering from burnout, exhaustion, and poor mental and physical health. The result is that both the caregiver and the dependent loved one are hurt.

2. As a caregiver, be sure to seek and find support. We all need help at one time or another. For caregivers it is very important to have support. Suggestions for finding support might include moving closer to family that can help or keeping a balance of a healthy life with caregiving duties by having planned respite breaks or looking for guidance from an online care community. When you take the initiative to ask for help it will lead to better outcomes.

3. As a caregiver, be sure to organize medical information. It would definitely be advantageous to everyone if you, as the family caregiver, created and maintained a comprehensive medical file pertaining to the dependent loved one. It should always be up-to-date and include important documents regarding medical history, medications and insurance.

4. As a caregiver, you need to be able to effectively communicate with all physicians, specialists and medical staff. Before a medical appointment of any kind you should be prepared. Make a list of questions and/or concerns you may have. During the doctor visit be sure to listen, speak up, listen again and ask any follow-up questions you may have. Taking notes daily will also help you remember important information for any medical appointments.

5. As a caregiver, you should use technology where appropriate. As a caregiver did you know that technology could help you manage your care? For example, a GPS app on your smartphone could help keep track of your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Other applications could help organize medications, medical appointments and daily tasks.

6. As a caregiver, enjoy the outdoors. Did you know that just a few minutes outside everyday can do wonders for your mental health? Not only is there a small break from the person you are caring for but the Vitamin D is good for you as well. Even if you are just stepping outside the door, get outside. If possible, include it in the daily routine for your loved one.

7. As a caregiver, be sure all legal documents are in order. As the caregiver in your family, in addition to your responsibilities with bathing, meal preparation and doctor’s appointments, do you also manage your loved one’s finances and legal affairs? You need to be sure to have up-to-date legal documents, like a power of attorney, because it is the foundation for handling these critical areas. Other important legal documents might relate to wills and trusts, or the ability to pay bills, navigate insurance policies and secure government benefits. If you or your loved one are in need of legal documents (or updating them), you should contact an experienced California estate planning attorney.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Our office is here for you and your loved ones. Please call us to schedule a meeting time.