6 Skills Every Caregiver Needs

Here are some skills that can help make caregiving easier to manage:

1. How to apply information to your caregiving situation.

Family caregivers need to be able to apply information and practice learned techniques to learn how to deal with things.

Home and community health professionals like nurses, occupational therapists and social workers can help you learn these practical tasks as well connect you to supports. For example, “How do I manage my father’s pain at this stage?” or “How do I get my house modified?”

There are support programs that can help with this. For example, the First Link® Learning Series includes activities in which caregiver groups break off into pairs and try to brainstorm and help each other find ways to apply what they have learned within the context of their own situation.

The Reitman CARERS program in Toronto includes a role-play component. Actors take on the role of a care recipient who has dementia, in order to help caregivers deal with challenging behaviours. In Alberta, COMPASS encourages caregivers to keep a journal.

2. How to communicate your needs – and accept help.

Many family, friends or neighbours are willing to help out, and they may offer, but how many of us say we “don’t need help”? Escape the slippery slope of caregiver martyrdom by asking for help. Be specific about what you need, from running errands to shoveling the driveway.

3. How to access the health system, and home and community care services.

A wide range of home and community services are available to help you. Professionals like nurses, occupational therapists and social workers can assess your unique care situation and help families develop the practical skills they need to provide care and maintain independence.

Talk to a doctor, nurse, or social worker about caregiving tasks that you are uncomfortable performing or find difficult to perform – from administering medications and diet, to falls prevention and bathing – to prevent injury to the person you care for, and yourself.

4. Creating strategies to cope with emotions and stress.

Caregiving can be all-encompassing. You need to learn how to balance self-care and providing care. Maybe time management strategies like creating weekly, prioritized to-do lists help maintain your sanity. Maybe it’s having a sounding board (one caregiver reports having a ‘scream room’), or making time to enjoy your garden, having coffee with friends, or a hobby.

5. Being able to respond and communicate in different situations.

Remember to actively listen, especially to the person you care for. You’ll need to communicate respectfully and effectively with medical professionals, care providers, other family members, and care recipients who have their own choices and opinions about their care. Ask questions, ask for feedback, and be diplomatic in speaking up for your loved one. Being able to stay calm and deal with the unexpected can make a world of difference.

6. How to recognize signs of caregiver burnout.

Caregiving should not cause illness. Competing demands of caregiving, child care, work and travel can be very difficult to manage for even the most organized, well-meaning caregiver. Research indicates that many caregivers who provide over 21 hours of care per week are at extra risk for burnout and need support. Reach out for help before you become overwhelmed – this is not selfish.

Remember: You are not alone. Help is out there if you seek it.

Source: http://www.saintelizabeth.com/Caring-for-Family/Caregiving-Information/Caring-for-Yourself/Skills-every-caregiver-needs-to-develop.aspx?lang=en-us