By Beth Dow, Solutions by Beth and Home Helpers of GA & AL

Most often the role of caregiving is not something that comes to us slowly. It hits us abruptly, after a loved one’s illness, fall or hospital stay.

If you have just begun this caregiver journey, you may not know how you are going to do this especially since your plate is already full.

How do you gain the confidence you need to do this caregiving thing and do it right? You take it one step at a time.

First: You need to pull up every bit of courage and patience you have from your toe nails and tell yourself YOU CAN DO THIS! You may have doubts, you may not know how, but you can survive this.

Next: Learn everything you can about the illness or injury that your loved one has. Read, Google and go to workshops.

Third: Call a mandatory family conference. This can be in person, by phone or by Facetime. The purpose of this call is to get everyone on the same page – this is what we are dealing with, this is what it means, and I cannot do it alone. I am going to survive this and I need your help to do so. If you need help with this conversation ask a trusted friend, pastor or a Geriatric Case Manager.

Fourth: Run and do not walk to your nearest Elder Law Attorney, Financial Advisor, Banker and VA specialist. You need to know what financial resources are available to help with care. You need to know if name changes on property, bonds, etc., need to happen. You need to make sure all your legal paperwork – wills, trusts, power of attorney – are in order. If your loved one is a veteran, you need to know what is available to them.

Fifth: Commit to not doing this alone. Caring for someone does not mean that you provide 100 percent of the care. The best care you can give your loved one may not be the care you provide. How many super heroes have you seen save the world all on their own? You have got to let someone else help.

Sixth: Do not isolate. Isolation is one of the most damaging effects that caregiving has on the caregiver. Continue to go to church, go out with friends and find a support group.

Seventh: Consider that your loved one may not be the only one that needs to be medicated. Caregiving is stressful. One doctor said that 97 percent of all illnesses could be traced back to stress. You have got to survive this – for yourself and for your loved one. Go to your doctor, get a checkup and get on something to help you with anxiety, stress and depression.

And last, don’t forget to laugh. It has been proven that laughter improves your mood and helps the chemicals in your brain maintain balance.

Caregiving is hard but you can do this … one step at a time.