November is National Family Caregiver Awareness Month. Recognizing the millions of people who provide care support to their dependent relatives is just one aspect of the month-long celebration. Promoting education and access to support services, especially for first-time caregivers, are other major objectives.

Did you know that more than 43 million Americans provided unpaid care to a dependent loved one over the past 12 months? Further, that the average care commitment was 21 hours per week, while a quarter of all family caregivers dedicated an average of 41 hours per week to help a dependent relative?

Needless to say, informal caregiving is both a necessary and a huge undertaking. Let us share a few tips with you to help new family caregivers get started this month. You may use them now, and throughout the year.

Tip 1: Helping a Dependent Loved One

It can be easy to get overwhelmed, but embracing your role as a dependent’s primary caregiver is the first step to taking the initiative on his or her behalf. From that point you may:

  • Obtain an updated diagnosis of your loved one’s health condition
  • Learn specific condition-related skills to care for him or her 
  • Involve other family members and friends in your loved one’s care
  • Keep family regularly informed about the dependent’s health and interests
  • Identify community-support resources
  • Address critical legal documents, such as powers of attorney, wills, and trusts

Tip 2: Helping Yourself

One of the biggest challenges facing family caregivers can be taking care of themselves. The demands of caring for a dependent relative can be so all-encompassing, that managing their own needs often becomes secondary. Bear in mind, however, what good is a sick or exhausted caregiver to the dependent loved one? Remember:

  • Always keep to the basics: healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and exercise
  • Ask and accept help from others
  • Establish firm boundaries
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself and your loved one
  • Learn about your loved one’s condition and identify related emotional triggers
  • Seek respite care because everyone needs time off

Many family caregivers have no other family help, but that does not mean they are alone. Whether you are new to caregiving or feeling isolated and overwhelmed, there is plenty of support available. 
Start with contacting organizations like the Caregiver Action Network and the Family Caregiver Alliance, and reach out to experienced elder law attorneys in your area. An elder law attorney can help establish foundational finance and health care documents, like trusts and advance directives, and be an effective advocate for resolving caregiving problems. Do not hesitate to schedule a meeting with our firm to get the answers you need on this or any other elder care issue.