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A Guide for Caregivers

April 28, 2023
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Image of caregiver holding the hand of an older adult

Caregivers play a significant role in the health and well-being of a loved one. But this role can also be physically and emotionally challenging for the caregiver. As Director of Geriatrics for CCA, I am well aware of the many challenges that caregivers face.

I grew up in a multi-generational household, first helping my parents care for my grandparents, then serving as the caregiver for my aunt. In my professional role, I have helped many of our health plan members age well in their own homes. These experiences have given me firsthand insights into the lives of our members and their caregivers.

At CCA, we believe that every individual has the right to live well in their own home for as long as possible. We understand how to address and navigate the many challenges you face as a caregiver and are committed to helping you in this journey.

The Role of a Caregiver

Taking care of your loved one means more than just addressing their physical and emotional health. You also must ensure their safety at home and communicate on their behalf. These tips can help you with your caregiving responsibilities.

Ensure Home Safety

Identifying potential hazards can ensure your loved one’s safety. For example:

Keep Medicine and Schedules Accessible

Having information and medicines organized and accessible can help ease day-to-day care and ensures others can jump in to help:

Leverage Community Resources

There are local organizations that provide resources to improve the well-being of your loved one and assist with common needs. Click on your state below for a list of resources.

The California Department of Aging can connect you to services for senior care, nutrition, exercise, transportation, and more. Their website offers information and support for
caregivers or you can call them at 800-510-2020.

SASCC offers activities for seniors along with resources that can help them continue to live
well in their community, including a senior center with a full calendar of social activities, an adult day program, and its RYDE senior transportation program for adults aged 65 and older.

The Massachusetts Family Caregiver Support Program may be able to help you if you are caring for an older family member, or if you are a grandparent caring for a young grandchild. Find out more by calling 1 (800) 243-4636 or clicking here.

The Massachusetts Family Caregiver Support Program has a list of local agencies and resources here.

Michigan’s Home Help program is designed to support individuals who wish to live independently in their home.

For an overview of services and a list of local county Michigan Department of Health & Human Services offices that can connect you or your loved one with help, click here.

The Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging resource list includes links to local, state, and federal programs and information. Topics include family and housing supports, food and nutrition, mental health and substance use, and more.

Take Care of Yourself

Caregiver burnout is all too common. Caregivers need to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities that can leave a person feeling exhausted, disorganized, guilty, and isolated. Many times, a caregiver prioritizes the needs of their loved ones over their own, but this pattern can impact both your own and your loved one’s quality of life. Here are some tips we’ve learned while working with CCA members and their families:

Ask for Help

While you want to do everything you can for your loved one, caregivers often don’t accept help because they don’t want to place burden on others. Depending on your comfort level and if others are available to help, you can begin by asking them to make a social visit with your loved one, or help with transportation to appointments or other activities. They can also pick up medicine or food.

Know the Signs of Depression

We all have “blue” days and may be unhappy from time to time, but the demands of caregiving can lead to longer bouts of sadness. It’s important for caregivers to recognize the signs of depression, such as: feeling sad, hopeless, or helpless; loss of energy; trouble sleeping; anger or irritability; self-loathing or thoughts of suicide. If you’re experiencing signs of depression that last for more than two weeks or if your symptoms worsen, talk to your doctor right away.

Manage Stress

Chronic stress can have negative impacts on your health and well-being. It’s important to recognize the signs, such as feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried, having frequent headaches or physical pain, gaining or losing weight, becoming easily irritated or angered, and more. To manage your stress, be sure to take care of yourself, with a focus on exercise, sleep, and eating well.

Respect Your Boundaries

To avoid burnout, you need periods of rest. Asking people to help give you time off, whether it’s a day or a week every few months, will enable you to provide long-term care for your loved one. The more shifts you can share the better, whether that’s with family or professional caregivers.

For more tools and resources for caregivers, check out:

Caring for yourself: Helpful tips and tools for caregivers

The ultimate caregiver’s toolkit

Debbie Sylvester, Doctor of Nursing practice and Nurse Practitioner, is Director of Geriatrics at Commonwealth Care Alliance.
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