Caring for the Caregiver

Learning Caregiving Skills

Once you learn about your role as a caregiver, you will be better equipped to face the current and future needs of caring for the elder in your life. Two helpful publications are the following:

Healthcare Skills

Caregivers need more than information. You may need to learn new healthcare-related skills. As hospitals and rehab facilities shorten the length of patient stays, families are asked to provide more direct care for elders. Families may be expected to keep wounds clean, give medications, administer CPR, or monitor heart and blood sugar levels, but often they are not given the training they need to provide this care effectively.

These two organizations provide training and courses for caregivers:

  1. The American Red Cross has courses in first aid that give hands-on training on how to recognize and respond to emergencies, how to perform CPR, and how to use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to save victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Visit the Web site and enter your Zip Code to find classes near you.
  2. Visiting Nurse Association of America (VNAA) provides in-home training for caregivers about wound care, nutrition, diabetes, asthma, and other topics by registered nurses. To find a VNA near you, visit the Web site and enter your city, state, or Zip Code.

Many organizations related to specific diseases (cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc.) provide education and training on various aspects of caring for elders with those conditions. (See More Caregiver Resources.)

Collecting and Organizing Information

Caregivers need to know how to collect and organize many details about their elder's health care, home care, medications, safety equipment, and so on. These records are vital but difficult to keep track of. "The Caregiver's Organizer", developed by the Central Massachusetts Family Caregiver Support Program, can be downloaded from its Web site in ten different languages. See also Finances and Geriatric Medical Care.

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