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Tips for First Time Caregivers

There is nothing easy about being a caregiver, but there is much that is rewarding. Ensuring your experience is as rewarding as possible requires learning from the experience of others. Therefore, we have compiled a list of the most important things caregivers have offered as advice to new caregivers. Read on if you are a new caregiver or if you are an experienced caregiver who wants to compare experiences.

1. Begin the caregiving conversation as early as possible. If you wait too long your loved one may not be able to express his/her ideas. You need their input to make certain that your efforts are achieving the desired effect.

2. Take a course on caregiving. It will help you to feel more confident. Agencies on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association offer courses throughout the year.

3. Get support. Caregiving can be difficult, lonely and frustrating. The sooner you realize this the easier it will be to accept help.

4. Get help early. You can "do it all" yourself for a long time but eventually you'll wear out and need help. Accept the fact that we all need help at times and seek it out before you collapse.

5. Explore all the caregiving options such as homecare programs, respite programs, adult day centers, assisted living.

6. Make legal preparations. There are many legal issues you will confront as a long term caregiver. Don't wait for a crisis. Seek out legal assistance to ensure you have adequate access to health care information, banking services and decision making.

7. Organize all documents including birth certificates, Medicare and other insurance cards, wills, power of attorney, advance directives, medications lists, bank account information, tax filings.

8. Establish your presence with healthcare providers. They need to know who you are and see you as a part of the caregiving team before a crisis arises.

9. Set priorities. You can't do it all. What is really important?

10. Live in the moment. You don't get extra time. Are you doing those things you value?