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What should I do if I become a caregiver for a loved one?

Losing the ability to do things for ourselves - like driving and managing finances - can be incredibly upsetting. Not only does it mean loss of independence, but it also means that someone else will need to help. And for many people, asking for and accepting help can be difficult.

Therefore, if you find yourself taking on the role of caregiver, you could be confronted with some challenges and reluctance from your loved one. Below are some tips for approaching this complicated situation.

Set boundaries

Caregiving for a loved one typically is not a 9-to-5 job. You do not clock in or out, which makes it easy to overextend yourself. This can foster feelings of resentment or bitterness, so set boundaries.

Discuss when you will be available and the type of assistance you can and will provide. As this article describes, be clear and firm with your boundaries to ensure you are both on the same page.

Familiarize yourself with your loved one's condition

Things like optimism and miscommunication can affect how we understand what our loved one needs and how we can help. As such, it is important that you talk to your loved one's doctor directly. Note that such access may require permission through powers of attorney, a HIPAA Release, or your loved one's consent.

Be sure you understand the prognosis and facts about your loved one's condition. Hearing it first-hand from someone familiar with the situation can allow you to manage both your and your loved one's expectations. You can also conduct research online, though, be careful only to use legitimate medical sources and consult a professional with questions.

Make changes as the need arises

People often have good intentions when offering or starting to care for a loved one. However, things can change. When they do, you should not feel like you must continue with the same plan if it is not working.

Should these duties become too demanding, or if your loved one's needs exceed your abilities to assist, you should discuss other care options. Depending on your loved ones' resources and care plans (if they made any), this could include hiring in-home care, or considering nursing homes, assisted living facilities or other specialized communities designed to provide specific services. 

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