New family caregivers – heed this advice

By Carol Marak - Aging Matters

Taking on the role of a family caregiver can be confusing and riddled with unfamiliar tasks, assignments and responsibilities. When compiling a checklist, the one thing a family member needs to know is that elder care is more than just health care issues.

There are so many services to consider. Services I always recommend are the legal and financial planning aspect. My motto is always to plan for the worst but always hope for the best.

Subsequently, I recommend contacting the local Area Agency on Aging, also known as the Department of Aging. You can find them online by searching the term “local area agency on aging.” The department will guide you to needed resources in your area. It’s the best place to start.

The other skills and tips to list. These will set you on a better caregiver track.

– Accept offers of help now

– Learn as much as you can about the illness and care needs

– Taking regular breaks from caregiving will prevent burnout

– Learn time management skills

– Get advice from professionals because now you’re expected to make important decisions and likely have limited information

Caregiving is physically and emotionally exhausting. Remember to recharge your batteries. Over time, caregiver stress can lead to burnout, a condition marked by irritability, fatigue, problems with sleep, weight gain, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, and social isolation.

Caregiver burnout is caused by repeated exposure to stress, which harms mental and physical health. Chronic stress triggers a release of stress hormones in the body, which can lead to exhaustion, irritability, a weakened immune system, and many other issues.

To counter stress and help avoid it, you can apply mind-body practices like yoga, tai chi, meditation, and deep relaxation techniques. Few other reminders:

1. Take care of your health.

2. Take time for yourself.

3. Practice patience.

4. Find work and caregiving balance.

5. Learn to take the ups and downs lightly.

People are not always prepared when they enter the role of family caregiver. New family caregivers should make time for themselves, look at the technology that is designed specifically for seniors and caregivers, openly communicate with family members, and be prepared for financial planning. To help build these skills, caregivers can visit

While you might find it difficult to keep social appointments with friends and family in the face of caretaking, it is important to maintain social connections to feel less isolated. Realizing that you’re not alone and that others are going through similar experiences nurtures your ability to be self-compassionate. Hospitals and local organizations often offer caregiver support groups for family and caregivers.

By Carol Marak

Aging Matters

Carol Marak is an aging advocate and editor at She holds a Certificate in Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Carol Marak is an aging advocate and editor at She holds a Certificate in Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.