Step 1- to becoming an effective caregiver is to establish a nurturing relationship with your senior loved ones. Spend more time with them. Become involved in their daily lives in an encouraging supporting manner. Not only will this enrich your relationship but it will also build the trust needed to lay the foundation of your transitional role from child to caregiver.
Step 2- to becoming an effective caregiver is to become educated on the subject of aging and elderly care. There is so much information available. One can easily become overwhelmed. Do use trusted organizations' information and government released research to educate yourself. Make an appointment to speak with your parents' doctor alone. Ask questions. Understand the struggles that your parents are having. Learn all about the signs to look for in order to determine whether or not your parents need additional care.
Step 3- to becoming an effective caregiver is to become watchful. Look for opportunities to lay the groundwork for dialog about the challenges of aging. If your father looks especially tired from yard work, you may mention that the yard looks wonderful and he has worked so many years taking care of it. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a neighborhood boy that might perhaps just help him with the mowing? Work on transitioning some tasks rather than telling your father that he is getting too old to do it all himself. Try to turn a burdensome task into an opportunity for him to stay involved yet not be overwhelmed and exhausted.
Step 4- to becoming an effective caregiver is to become patient. It is important not rush into discussing life changing decisions. Your parents will be more open and responsive if you take your time, establish that close relationship, and patiently wait for an opportune moment to speak with them. Remember that becoming a caregiver is a learning process. There is no magical moment where you can say that you've arrived or that now you know everything that there is to know about caregiving. As our parents continue to grow older, their problems evolve. We need to recognize and accept that fact. We need to adapt to meet their needs.
Step 5- to becoming an effective caregiver is to become sensitive to our own needs. It is very easy to become so involved in caring for others that we neglect our immediate family and ourselves. How can we possibly care for our parents if we do not take care of ourselves as well? We need to take care of our physical needs with good nutrition and exercise. We need to take care of our emotional needs by spending time with friends and other family members. We need to spend time just on ourselves, take up a hobby, read a book or even just to rest. We do not want to burnout caring for our senior loved ones. We need a time of renewal and refreshment to take up the challenge that awaits us.
Step by step, we can learn to become the successful attentive caregivers that our parents need and deserve.