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Getting Started

Taking Stock

If you are the primary family caregiver, you will work with the health care team to make sure that all your loved one's needs are met. This can be an overwhelming and strenuous task, especially if you try to handle all of the responsibilities on your own. It may not even be possible for one person to perform all the duties required in caring for your loved one. In order to gain some control over the situation, you must make a plan of action.

There are five main steps in developing a plan of action:

1. Determine the needs of the patient
List the activities that must be done for the patient to be properly cared for. Using the Patient Needs Checklist, record all of the patient's needs, being as specific as possible.
2. Decide which needs you can or would like to meet on your own
Once you see exactly what caring for the patient will require, you can assess your resources. There will be caregiving responsibilities you can handle on your own, and some that will require assistance. On the Checklist, check off all of the tasks that you will perform yourself.
3. Determine which needs can or must be met by others
Though you may feel the desire to do everything on your own and not "burden" others, learning to ask for help is vital to minimize exhaustion -- a condition called "burnout."  Circle all of the tasks on the Checklist with which you would like or need help.
4. Identify family and friends to whom you can turn for help
Family members and friends may be able to contribute to caregiving in many valuable ways.  It helps to know who you can count on to give you a hand. It is also useful to know which of your family and friends have skills in areas that could be of use. On the Assessing Your Resources Form, list all the family members and friends that you can ask for help. Next to their names, record any specialized skills or resources that they may be able to offer. This may include legal advice, knowledge about medical insurance, cooking, money to spare for a loan, and time to run errands or provide companionship.
5. Establish the need for outside professional help
You may find that there are patient needs that require professional assistance, such as nursing care, transportation, or respite care. You may not feel comfortable performing certain medical procedures or you may need help with patient care.  The patient may also rather have professional assistance for more personal care to help maintain a sense of privacy and dignity.  If this is the case, it is important for you to seek the appropriate assistance. Here is a list of home care agencies and organizations that offers such services.  If the patient has a social worker from a hospital stay, he/she can be contacted to help you think things through and make arrangements.


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