13 Secrets that Make Caregiving Easier

By Marlo Sollitto, AgingCare.com Editor

“As dad’s Alzheimer’s disease progresses, I don’t know how to get through to him anymore.” “There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get everything done.” “Mom’s requests are outrageous!”

These types of caregiver questions and comments are very common on AgingCare.com. Caregivers struggle with their jobs every day. As one issue is solved, a new challenge arises. When caregivers take care of an elderly family member, the roles are reversed. Now the caregiver is the “adult” and must find the best way to “get through to” an elderly parent….and to understand their needs.

These concepts can help get you in the right “mindset” for caregiving – and we hope make your life a little easier.

1. Remember the Person Inside
Your parent is likely different mentally and/or physically than the way you remember from years past. To respond to your parent’s needs, you have to know him/her – and you do, probably better than most people. Your parent may have changed, but they are the same person on the inside. Always keep that person in mind as you give care.

2. Re-Think Personal Boundaries
When it comes to personal boundaries – what can be talked about and what physical assistance can be given – flexibility and complete honesty is key. Topics that may have been taboo at one time — like toileting and bodily functions – are now essential subject matter. Your parent may have trouble bathing or getting on and off the toilet. However, they are probably embarrassed to talk about it or get help. If so, be the one to the start the conversation. Be candid, empathetic and honest. Help them feel comfortable about communicating their feelings to you, then have the courage to tell them how you feel. Once the topic is addressed or the assistance is given, it will likely become a non-issue. So face it head on.

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13 Secrets that Make Caregiving Easier originally appeared on AgingCare.com

3. Have Patience
Patience really is a virtue when it comes to caregiving. There will be times when everything your parent does is annoying, frustrating or downright dumb. But don’t take it out on them. Remove yourself from the situation for a moment, take a deep breath and address the situation once you calm down. This is very important to maintaining your own mental health. Stress and pent-up frustration take a big toll on caregivers.

4. Trust
When you are providing the most intimate care to an elderly person, they must trust you completely. And you must trust yourself. Have faith in your ability to be a caregiver. No one is perfect. You’re in unknown territory. There are no rule books to prepare you for the role. Make decisions based on the situation and perform your role with confidence. It can be frightening, but you have to have the courage to do the best you can. And most importantly, seek help when you need it!

5. Arm Yourself with Knowledge
Learn all that you can about your loved one’s condition. There is a lot of information out there. Many before you have had to deal with the same condition or ailment that your parent suffers from. Find information from healthcare professionals, the internet or friends who have gone through similar situations. Knowledge is power. It can guide you and instill confidence. Furthermore, when you demonstrate that you are competent to make decisions about their care, your loved one will relax and become more compliant with the regimens that you develop.

6. Do It From the Heart
You may have taken on the role of caregiver because there was no one else to do it. You got the job whether you wanted it or not. But if it’s yours, commit to it. Don’t view caring for an elderly parent as an obligation. Approach caregiving as something you do from your heart. Your job is important. You are having a positive impact on the life of another. Caregiving is a selfless act. Make it something you want to do…not have to do. It’s always easier to do something that you want to do.

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13 Secrets that Make Caregiving Easier originally appeared on AgingCare.com

7. Have Humility
Even though your elderly parent is impaired, he or she still has an opinion. They can still teach important lessons about life and love. Be willing to learn from your loved one and avoid arrogance that may come from frustration. Don’t disregard their opinion without giving it some thought. Take time to consider their point of view. Respond to your parent as the individual human being they were before they became “the patient.”

8. Look for Non-Verbal Clues
Body language is a big part of human communication and interaction. Your elderly parent may be visibly uncomfortable or agitated, but unable to express what is wrong. If you take the attitude of “well, if you’re not going to tell me what’s wrong, then I’m not going to worry about it,” you might be missing a critical health problem or care need. Be sensitive to subtle non-verbal cues. Your loved one’s responses, no matter how simple, open the door for you to more accurately understand what they need, or how much they need.

9. Be Responsive…with Limits
This doesn’t mean you have to jump every time your parent calls. But also don’t ignore your loved one when they express a need. Even if you have to explain that the request is not possible, or that you can’t get to it right now, let them know that you heard them. If they think you are ignoring them, they will likely become angry, and then you have a new problem on your hands.

10. Be Present
With caregiving comes an endless list of tasks. With so much to do, you probably feel like there are not enough hours in the day to get it all done. But don’t get caught in the trap of just trying to get it all done and working “around” your loved one. Take the time to notice what’s in their eyes, their tone of voice, and what they are saying. Take a few minutes to spend time with them and try to enjoy their company. If your loved one senses that you’re doing the job because you want to, they’ll be more cooperative and more willing to work out the compromises.

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13 Secrets that Make Caregiving Easier originally appeared on AgingCare.com

11. Communicate with Touch
As we get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of caregiving, we sometimes forget to show affection. Too often, we only touch our parents when we’re helping them get up, or dress. Everyone needs some human touch: A hug, holding a hand, or a simple pat on the arm. Attention and affection makes your parent feel like less of a burden. They’ll feel more comfortable, less frightened and more important. If they know you really do care, maybe….just maybe… they’ll think twice before spewing an ugly remark or throwing a tantrum.

12. Be Non-Judgmental
Getting old isn’t easy to accept. As they age, your parent still has a strong desire to remain independent and in control of their own lives for as long as possible. In their place, wouldn’t you feel the same way? Sometimes, their words or actions are based on frustration or fear of getting old and not being able to care for themselves anymore. When they need assistance getting up from a seated position, have trouble bathing, or have to give up the keys to the car, it’s a dose of reality that the life they once knew is gone forever. Have tolerance, and practice non-judgment. Put yourself in their shoes.

13. Build Teamwork
Work together, not against each other. Being a caregiver requires teamwork between you and your loved one. Of course, it takes two, but the first step is to develop that “teamwork” attitude yourself. Then, you can work on getting your elder to take the same frame of mind. Everything is a little easier when you’re working with someone, rather than against them. Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are part of the team as well. Working together streamlines time and effort and builds confidence.

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13 Secrets that Make Caregiving Easier originally appeared on AgingCare.com


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jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago


Akin Adelakun
Akin Adelakun4 years ago

Thanks for this article.

Lika S.
Lika S.4 years ago

And when you feel frustrated with your situation, don't forget to ask for help. Just because you never needed a sitter for your kids doesn't mean that taking care of elderly parents 24/7 is going to be the same.

Find a suitable "sitter" for them, and go enjoy a time out. Even if it's only to go sit at the park to read a book. That worry free time may help you keep being a good caregiver for your elderly parents. Especially when they live with you.

Grow G.
Grow G.4 years ago

Great things to always keep in mind if you want to be a good caregiver. Everyone needs to read this. Good job!

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B.4 years ago

Noted with thanks.

Anja N.
Justin R.4 years ago

Thank you. Much appreciated.

Deborah Kampfer
Deborah Vitek4 years ago

The best secret a care-giver can have is to live in a country that has real health care....i.e., any first world nation aside from the U.S. I took care of my husband, who had chronic progressive MS for 13 years. Half of that time was spent neglecting him and fighting with the insurance company to try to get anything covered. Then we were on Medicare....hah. Medicare (maybe this has changed) allowed me all of 40 hours of respite a year, and only four hours at a time.

I now live in Canada and am amazed at how different it is in a country that actually cares about it's citizens and not only about the dollar. The U.S. medical industry has propagandized the citizens of the U.S. and you don't even realize your medical care is on par with the third world or less, unless you have millions of your own to spend.

I can't believe that the people of the U.S. have not taken to the streets and demanded a single payer national health care system. Maybe there is something in the water that makes you all unable to do your own research and reach your own conclusions. I don't know. I do know that I am very glad I no longer live there.

Monica D.
Monica D.4 years ago

This sounds sensible.

ana p.
ana p.4 years ago


Kathy K.
Kathy K.4 years ago