Former First Lady of the United States Rosalynn Carter, famously stated, ”there are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”  Her words lend credence to the fact that there is a chance that at some point in your life you will become a caregiver. In fact, approximately 1 in 3 adults in the United States are providing care for a loved one in an informal capacity. The following are four tips if you are becoming a caregiver for the first time:

Know What’s Needed of You

It is important that you clearly understand your loved one’s unmet needs. Incongruent expectations can result in misunderstandings and distress for both you and your loved one. Of course, the extent of your role will depend on the person for whom you care. For example, you will want to be prepared should your loved one have incontinence, need assistance with adult pull ups, personal care, complex treatments, or medication. You might seek out caregiver training whenever possible, as meeting the personal care needs of your loved one can be quite the challenge, especially if you are not prepared. In addition to caregiver training, you, your loved one, and the family might discuss and document all that will be needed so that you can effectively delegate tasks.

Document Your Loved One’s Requests

Whenever possible, ask, document, and share your loved one’s care wishes. This may not always be possible depending on your loved one’s health conditions or cognitive status. However, you want to empower your loved one to maintain his or her independence for as long as possible. This way you perform certain tasks and your love one can continue doing other tasks as usual. It is important to respect their boundaries and requests.

Seek Additional Support

Additional support may be needed and it is essential that you seek out the support that you might need ahead of time. There is a plethora of services that can assist with your caregiving situation. Whether that be an extra pair of hands every now and then, or an opportunity to go out on a day trip. It is vital to make use of services and organizations who can be of service to you and your loved one.

Do not Feel Guilty for Taking Time for You

Being a part-time or full-time caregiver is not easy. Therefore, it is important that as a caregiver, you are taking care of yourself too. If you need a break, it’s important to take one, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so. Consider taking a step back every now and then, so you do not become overwhelmed.

There is help and guidance out there if you are a first-time caregiver, so be sure to seek them out.



AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020.