5 tips to be the best caregiver

Being a caregiver for someone who is sick or recovering is a selfless and loving job, one that comes with as much reward as it does difficulty. It takes a special person to be a caregiver—someone full of patience, love and respect for those they care for.

If you find yourself in a caregiving role, it’s important to remember to balance the care of yourself and the other person. Burnout among caregivers is common, often because the caregiver feels a sense of guilt for taking any personal time for him or herself. But, in order to give the best care, be it to a loved one or a stranger, you need to make sure you’re prioritizing your own health. This means getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and staying home when you’re ill.

Keep in mind these other five tips to being the best caregiver possible: 

  1. Be a good listener. Show you are genuinely invested in what the person you are caring for has to say so they can feel respected. Being in a place where one needs a caregiver can sometimes bring with it a loss of dignity and it’s important for the caregiver to remember he or she is still a person with thoughts, opinions and feelings.
  2. Don’t take it personally. On that note, try not to take it to heart if the person you are caring for has an “off” day and is unkind to you. They are going through challenges you may not be able to personally empathize with. This is where a caregiver’s patience plays a big role.
  3. Communicate clearly. When you have concerns for or about the person you’re caring for, use “I” statements, which are more constructive and can avoid the other person from feeling defensive. For example, “I feel frustrated when you won’t eat because I know it’s going to help you feel better.”
  4. Ask for help when you need it. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for assistance from others when you are feeling overwhelmed or if are unsure of what to do in a certain situation.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Caregiving can have difficult moments and you may hear yourself saying negative things like, “I’m not doing this right,” or “I can’t possibly take a half hour for myself right now.” This can cause more anxiety for you, the caregiver. Replace these statements with positive speak, such as “I’m doing the best I can,” and “I’ll be more attentive later if I take a break now to get some fresh air.”

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