New to Caregiving: Empowering Yourself with Knowledge and Resilience  

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Photo © Courtesy of Family Caregivers of British Columbia

May is Caregiver Awareness Month!

Becoming a caregiver can creep up on you. Maybe it starts with dropping by your mom’s house to do her laundry, taking your dad to a doctor’s appointment or delivering groceries to your friend. Gradually, you find yourself doing more and more as the person you care for needs more support. Other times, caregiving is triggered by a major health event or acute diagnosis, such as a serious fall, motor vehicle accident, stroke, heart attack or cancer diagnosis. In both scenarios, caregiving becomes your primary focus, redirecting all your energy and attention. Life as you know it shifts, and in an instant, caregiving becomes your new normal. 

New caregivers often face significant challenges, including navigating unfamiliar territory without a clear understanding of their responsibilities, grappling with overwhelming information as they attempt to identify and coordinate with healthcare and service providers, and feeling uncertain about the resources and programs available to support their loved ones. 

Caregiving doesn’t come with a crystal ball. Given its complexity and ever-changing role, caregivers often feel better when they are prepared and supported. The first stages of caregiving can feel the most challenging. Caregivers often feel uncertain about the future and feel the least informed about what’s happening, what’s needed, and what’s expected.  

Here are a few essential first steps to guide you in understanding and meeting your loved one’s needs effectively:  

  • Obtain a Comprehensive Diagnosis: While it may require extensive coordination with healthcare professionals, obtaining an accurate diagnosis is crucial. Understanding the specific disease or condition your loved one is facing and its symptoms and effects can guide your caregiving journey. 
  • Identify Necessary Supports: Take the time to assess and determine the support you’ll need as a caregiver. This may involve seeking informational resources, emotional support, or access to publicly funded or private services. Be specific in your assessment, considering the unique needs of your loved one’s situation, such as mobility issues or communication challenges following a stroke. 
  • Acquire Relevant Skills: Depending on the diagnosis, you’ll need to develop specific caregiving skills and knowledge. Consult with your healthcare team and seek out disease-specific programs and caregiver support to acquire the necessary training. Whether it’s managing complex medication regimens or assisting with rehabilitation exercises, tailor your learning and preparation to meet the demands of your loved one’s condition. 

In addition to these steps, it’s important for new family caregivers to prioritize their own well-being to prevent burnout. Remember to carve out time for self-care activities that rejuvenate your mind and body, whether it’s going for a walk, practicing mindfulness, or indulging in a hobby. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and accept support from others. Joining a caregiver support group or seeking counselling can provide valuable emotional support and practical advice. By taking proactive steps to care for yourself, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges of caregiving with grace and compassion. 

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey; seeking support from others and embracing realistic expectations can enhance your resilience amidst the caregiving challenges. With preparation, support, and self-care, new caregivers can navigate their roles with strength, empathy, and empowered determination. 

To learn more, visit the Family Caregivers of BC Caregiver Resource Centre at familycaregiversbc.ca or contact the BC Caregiver Support Line at 1-877-520-3267.  Increase your resilience, learn new skills, and find support. We are here for you.

May is National Caregiver Month! Join us in the celebration across Canada to acknowledge the 8 million people providing care to a family member, friend, neighbour. Follow us on social media and lend your voice in support of caregivers everywhere! #CaregiverAware 

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Family Caregivers of BC (FCBC) is a provincial, not-for-profit organization that proudly and compassionately supports over one million people in British Columbia who provide physical and/or emotional care to a family member, friend, or neighbour.

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