Providing Direct Care

Providing direct care to a loved one can be difficult and stressful at first. Learning new skills, such as changing a dressing or giving an injection, takes time and practice. Taking on tasks that you have not done before such as cooking, lawn maintenance, laundry, or managing the finances can be overwhelming. Most family members agree that the most difficult thing is being able to fit these tasks into their already busy lives.

Here are some tips that may help you provide direct care for your loved one at home:

  • Make a list of all the healthcare tasks that you need to perform for your loved one.
  • Identify tasks that you are willing to perform.
  • Circle the tasks that you don't know how to perform. Ask the doctor or nurse for information and/or training. Have them watch you do the task.
  • Talk with your loved one's doctor or nurse about other providers who may be able to help by performing tasks of care that you are unable or unwilling to perform (visiting nurses, home health aides, Meals On Wheels, chore/housekeeping service, transportation service).
  • If you have other people providing care to your loved one, monitor what they are doing so that you know that your loved one's needs are being met.
  • Prioritize the tasks of care that need to be performed.
  • Schedule care tasks as much as possible to help you establish a daily routine. Make a list of activities and times.
  • Encourage your loved one to do as much for herself as possible.
  • Keep a list of signs and symptoms that need to be reported to the doctor or nurse.
  • Keep a list of emergency telephone numbers near the telephone (ambulance, hospital, doctor's office, doctor's answering service).
  • Find a support group for caregivers. Other caregivers will share their experiences with you and can provide tips for providing care.
  • Be sure to take care of YOU. This means getting enough rest and exercise, and eating a balanced diet.
  • Take time out for yourself each week to go have lunch or dinner with a friend, go to a movie or sporting event, take a walk, or read for pleasure.

If you need more information, the following two books provide very helpful information:

  • "American Medical Association Guide to Home Caregiving." American Medical Association. New York: Wiley, John & Sons, Inc., 2001.
  • "Coping: A Practical Guide for People with Life-Challenging Diseases and Their Caregivers." Rubin Battino. Bancyfelin, Carmarthen, UK: Crown House Publishing, 2001.

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