Tips for Tackling Caregiving

Did you know that over 25% of the US population (more than 65 million people) provides care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year? The number of caregivers is rising as the population is aging. So what can the family caregiver do?

  1. Plan ahead– even before serious illness strikes. Complete your advance directives. You never know when a serious illness will strike, and conversations before a crisis hits can help to ease the stress later on.
  2. Organize important financial and health documents (including lists of illnesses, medications, important phone numbers and financial proxy), and find out what is covered by your insurance plan.
  3. Keep a journal or running account of questions, resources, ideas, phone numbers – and keep it with you. It is amazing where information comes from – the grocery store, an ad on a bus, or just in passing conversation.
  4. Rally the troops! Even those living far away can help.
  5. Access palliative care early, if your loved one is in the hospital. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage of the illness. Palliative experts work alongside the patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.
  6. Ask for a referral to a social worker or case manager either in the hospital or at the doctor’s office. These professionals can help connect you with community resources (meals, home health, transportation needs, and individual support services).
  7. Try to find balance. Schedule time away from caregiving to rest and do the things you enjoy.
  8. Seek out caregiver support groups through your local hospital or community agencies. Many will have phone support sessions for those who cannot leave home.

The websites and resources below can get you started.

National Institutes on Aging “So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers about Long-Distance Caregiving is available for free at

*National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP; Nov 2009