10 Tips for Family Caregivers: 10 Steps to a New Beginning

Magnificent_sunriseWhen you hit the pillow at 10 p.m. last night, you thought: I hope tomorrow will be better.

But, tonight, at 12:30 a.m., you think: This starting over every day is just killing me.

We often talk about the constant of caregiving—change. With change, comes its sister: Starting Over. Every day, you may feel like you’re starting over. You start over with different services as your caree’s health declines, as help burns-out and disappears, as your caree’s abilities lessen, as your patience wears thin, as funding for the programs you use dries up. Just when you feel like you’ve made progress, a change causes you to start over. It’s like yesterday’s accomplishments and successes were simply a dream.

So, how can you stay positive when starting over drains you faster than a family member’s insensitivity? We’ve got 10 suggestions:

1. Start your day with a routine that refreshes. Some family caregivers start the day with time for reflection. Others begin their day by taking a few moments to journal. Others say a prayer or meditation or devotion. Create a ritual that’s just right for you, that helps you find and keep your perspective.

2. Live in the present. Fretting about the past and worrying about the future takes you out of what you can control: Today. Take one day at at time, focusing on today’s needs, planting seeds for tomorrow’s.

3. Express frustrations to a comforting support system. Caregiving can be so lonely, but it’s awful when you feel you must go it alone. Vent to a comforting support system that neither judges or “should’s” you. Let it out so you let it go.

4. Really and truly embrace forgiveness. Our weekly care plans encourage you to look at forgiveness as an important part of your wellness. A good beginning happens because of a good ending. Forgiveness helps create those good endings.

5. Take a daily temperature of your situation by asking these two questions: Do I have what I need? Does my caree have what he or she needs? Then, take action.

6. End the day by listing three gratitudes. Count your blessings because that’s how your blessings count. And, when you keep track, you keep building the blessings.

7. Practice your faith, whatever your faith may be. Faith in a Higher Power who has called you to a Greater Good adds meaning to an experience that spurs more questions than answers.

8. Enjoy the humor in the day. It’s funny. When it is, laugh. When you laugh, you show appreciation for an incredible gift we’re given: A sense of humor. Exercise it.

9. Keep in mind: This too shall pass. Oh, boy, it can seem like loss and darkness has settled in your home permanently. They may overstay their welcome, but they will be replaced by growth and light. They will.

10. Believe in yourself. It keeps everyone else believing. And, on those days when you just can’t believe all that’s happened or believe in your ability to manage it, know we believe in you. And, we don’t ever stop.

(Reprinted from The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey.)

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About Denise

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

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Denise HigginscarlaschuchmanBobDenise Recent comment authors
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The list of tips for an experience I often have was very helpful Denise. Thanks!!!


I certainly need these, and more. I believe I am reaching burnout and my lost feeling overtakes me more than I want to admit. Both Smokey and I have talked about how this is probably going to end. As much as he want to fight, as much as he is fighting, the fight is so tiring. I know this has only been a year in a half, with him, seven with his mom, but I just can’t seem to get it. I pray a lot. Thank you Denise for these tips. They are so helpful, and I am trying, so… Read more »

Denise Higgins
Denise Higgins

My husband was diagnosed in 2011 when he suddenly had hallucinations and some personality changes. It is so frustrating for him so spend his days unable to do the creative things he once did. He had his own painting, wallpapering and improvement business and was extremely handy at fixing things. Unable to do these things causes occasional outbursts and anger. He has also had some visual problems where what the eyes see does not “compute” to the brain. We do take walks when the weather allows, but he seems to sleep in the afternoon and at night. I try to… Read more »