It’s exhausting. It’s sad. It’s aggravating.

It’s caregiving.

To help you gain control over a situation that seems so out-of-control, consider The Three Be’s of Caregiving: Be Prepared, Be Honest and Be Well.

Be Prepared:

Once a family member needs intense care, time is spent managing one moment to the next. It’s hard to carve out the time needed to really explore and research care options: Health care facilities, physicians, specialists, attorneys, financial planners, care managers, community programs and services. Gather information early on and as soon as possible, so that you have options and choices available when needed.

To stay on track, ask yourself:

–What does the future hold for your care recipient? What will his or her care needs be? What community services are available to provided the needed care? If in-home will not meet the care needs, which housing options (assisted living facilities, nursing homes) will?

–What can your care recipient afford in terms of care? If budget restrictions are a concern, what other community programs or services (or state or federal) programs can offset the cost of care?

–What information or training do you need to be a qualified, effective caregiver? Where can you gather the information or learn the caregiving techniques?

Be Honest:

You may find yourself in a position you want to be everything to everyone: Supportive spouse, nurturing parent, devoted caregiver, responsible employee, dependable friend, valuable volunteer. Trying to do it all means you get lost in the shuffle–something has to give. Caregiving will eat up more time and energy than you can ever imagine. In order to manage the experience, it’s important to be honest about how much you can handle and for how long and then fill those voids with community programs, family help, health care providers. It’s essential to set realistic limits on your abilities, respect your boundaries and welcome the best help possible.

To find your limits and boundaries, ask yourself:

–What are your limits as a caregiver? Can family members, friends or community services fill those voids? If not, what other options are available?

–How long can you afford (emotionally, financially, physically) to provide care in your home or in your care recipient’s home?

Be Well:

Caregiving, which can be a long-term commitment, will take its toll. It’s sad to watch a once-vibrant family member struggle to perform basic daily activities. Maintaining a semblance of yourself outside your role, even if only for a few moments each day, and enjoying a true support system (one which honors your role, rather than one that questions it) helps you stay well. In all that you do, one priority stays constant: Your own health.

Consider:

–What interests and hobbies are important to you? How can you maintain these?

–How can you integrate a fitness program into your routine?

–How can you maintain a regular support system?

–How can you release all those negative emotions of caregiving in a healthy way?

–How can you better express your feelings and your beliefs so that family members and friends understand your goals as a family caregiver?

–In what areas do you need help? How can you get the help you need?

–In what ways can you bring joy and laughter into your life (and your care recipient’s) on a regular basis?