When talking about supporting seniors, it can be all too easy to leave support for caregivers out of the conversation. Support groups for caregivers, caregiver support programs, and other caregiving support organizations can help you find out how to support caregivers.
Read on for a whole alphabet’s worth of tips (26!), including more information about caregiver support groups.
How To Support Caregivers (From A-Z!)
There’s no shame in needing support as a caregiver. Adopting some of the best resources, tips, and tools can make you more resilient to the challenges of caregiving.
Discover 26 of the best tips for caregivers, in alphabetical order, below!
A – Ask about accommodations beforehand. Thanks to the internet, there is a lot of information available online! Scoping out an establishment prior to visiting it can help you understand it from an accessibility standpoint.
B- Build a community around your older adult, but also build one around you. Make sure you both feel supported in your efforts to create the best quality of life for your loved one.
C-Classes (take one). If there is an area, like meal planning, that you don’t quite feel competent in, that’s okay! Luckily, there are many classes and courses (even online ones) that are taught by skilled, qualified individuals. Go into caregiving experiences remembering that no one expects you to be an expert at everything, and that you are allowed to learn as you go.
D- Do delivery services for routine tasks. Whether it’s meal delivery with Silver Cuisine or getting your groceries delivered to your doorstep, delivery services can help ameliorate everyday stress. These services are becoming more affordable, so be sure to look into your budget and see what works for you.
E- Enjoy the time you have with your loved one. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in caregiving, since “caregiving” often includes a million other little tasks and roles. Whether you were prepared to take on this role or it was a bit of a surprise, take time to cherish the challenges and celebrations with your loved one.
F- Find financial literacy resources. Caregiving can impose a real financial burden. Be sure to reach out, refinance, or adapt your finances to the current situation, as needed. It can be awkward (at first) to discuss money, but talking with someone trustworthy who can help you make sense of everything may bring you the peace of mind you’ve been searching for.
G- Give seniors opportunities that help them remain independent. This can more easily be said than done, since seniors naturally may move slower or with greater difficulty. However, supporting a senior in their independence can be an insightful way to show you care.
H- Housing arrangements may need to be adapted. Study how to make a household more safe for your senior and implement the necessary changes. For example, lighting may need to be improved in order to make your senior safer or more independent in their living space.
I- Identify areas of improvement. It may be hard to admit, but nobody is perfect. Adapting your practices, plans, and schedules until they fit your needs is a useful skill.
J- Join a support group. A support group can be a key factor in helping you feel supported. Connect online or in local communities, and ask for help or resources among people who understand and empathize with what you are going through.
K- Keep connected. Everybody craves connection, and far too commonly seniors experience isolation. Make an effort to cultivate connection wherever you can, whether through social media or simply having a conversation while in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. Connecting with others can remind you that you aren’t alone in your own struggles.
L-Learn all you can about a loved one’s condition. Especially if you are a long-distance caregiver, finding out what you can (with consent, of course) about health status, treatment plans, and resources may make you and your loved one feel more supported.
M- Me time. Caregivers often deal with a mountain of challenges that even the ones closest to them can’t quite understand. Don’t neglect yourself in the process of caregiving. Support yourself by scheduling some regular “me time”. Try planning one small outing or self-care practice each week, and one bigger outing or self-care commitment each month.
N- “No” (learn how to say it). It can be uncomfortable (at first) to say “no”. However, learning to set boundaries can create a healthier atmosphere for you and help you advocate better for a loved one. You don’t have to say “yes” without researching more or searching for other options. Remember, you always have a choice in the matter, regardless of the circumstances. It may not be a circumstance you wanted, but you can still choose how you think and feel about a situation. Sometimes that includes saying “no” to things that don’t serve you or your senior friend or family member.
O- Organize important paperwork. If you’re a new caregiver, you’ll find out pretty soon that there are many documents you are handed at healthcare appointments. Luckily, some organizations are going digital, but it is still important to keep copies and notes organized for when you need them. Finding this tricky? Start with the most up-to-date records and then move backwards into the archives if you have time.
P- Permission. Definitely discuss permission and written permissions that are necessary for proper caregiving. Often, a caregiver will need to receive medical or financial information. For example, someone with advancing Alzheimer’s may need to allow others to be able to review and make decisions about their personal information.
Q- Quit the negative self-talk. Instead of focusing on mistakes, mishaps, or mindless actions, start reinforcing your own good behavior. A failure is only truly a failure if you don’t learn from the experience. Resolve to grow and change in a positive way each day instead of holding a grudge against yourself or harboring shame.
R- Relationship. Don’t forget that caregiving is a type of relationship! Relationships experience ups and downs, and it is important to learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. The best thing about relationships? Even when a caregiver is doing most of the “work”, both parties can experience positive growth, gratitude, and a number of other benefits.
S- Spend time with friends (both you and your loved one). Friends make challenges more bearable and celebrations more fun! Be sure to include your friends and the friends of your loved one in your caregiving journey. Many may naturally want to lend a hand.
T- Take training courses. It can’t hurt to brush up on first aid or CPR, especially if it’s been a few years. Sign up for training that helps you feel more equipped in daily life or prepared in case of an emergency. Some insurance agencies will even cover the cost of training since it has been shown to improve health outcomes.
U- Use your resources. As mentioned above, the internet can be a wonderful resource. The National Institute on Aging has a webpage with links, full of helpful information to get you started. Other great organizations that connect caregivers to resources include Caregiving.com, Caregiving.org, and Psychology Today’s Caregiving page (which focuses on the basics of caregiving and mental health).
V- Visit according to a schedule or plan. A well-intentioned, unplanned visit may cause complications for an older friend or family member. Be sure to communicate to loved ones what visiting hours are appropriate for your senior. This can help you keep track of schedules and daily tasks a bit better, too.
W- Wills. They may not be the most fun thing to talk about, but taking care of the particulars of a last will and testament before your loved one passes is important. It can clear up a lot of confusion about how your loved one envisions their funeral and how they desire their assets to be divided after they have passed.
X- Xerox documents that need to stand the test of time. Create copies of important documents, whether that be childhood photos or appointment records. Making copies for your loved ones far away can also be a great way to stay connected.
Y- Yearly (at the very least), schedule check-ups. Your loved one may need more than a yearly check-up, but it’s a great place to start. Being proactive with an older adult’s health is crucial to catching troubling conditions early and creating an appropriate plan of action.
Z- Zeal (don’t lose it). Zeal is defined as energy or enthusiasm for the task at hand. Approaching each challenge or celebration with zeal can help infuse you with energy to complete the task. Often, that energy is contagious and can make even a tough situation feel more delightful.
In Summary On Support for Caregivers
Caregiving involves a myriad of tasks, but it also invites space for learning and growth. Instead of feeling worried or annoyed about caregiving, try connecting with others in the same stage of life as you. You can use this list as a great starting place to pinpoint areas you want to improve in your own caregiving relationship.
National Institute on Aging. 6 Tips for Long-Distance Caregiving. Youtube.com. Published November 2021.
National Institutes of Health. Make Yourself a Priority, Too: Tips for Caregivers. Nia.nih.gov. Accessed 2022.