47 Powerful Lessons and Advice from Family Caregivers

47 Powerful Lessons and Advice from Family Caregivers

47 Powerful Lessons and Advice from Family Caregivers

 

If you are one of the 66 million people serving as a family caregiver, I’m sure you’ll agree that caregiving can leave you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed out, and confused… and that’s before lunch!  You likely took on the role of family caregiver without any training or coaching. This just adds to the overwhelm. In this article, I’m sharing 47 caregiver lessons learned and advice from family caregivers who understand the challenges you face.

47 Powerful Lessons and Advice from Family Caregivers

Whether you are a new caregiver or have been taking care of loved ones awhile, I trust you will garner at least one thing that will help you along your journey… or at least feel like you aren’t alone!

 

Whether you are a new caregiver or have been taking care of loved ones awhile, I trust you will garner at least one thing that will help you along your journey… or at least feel like you aren’t alone! Click To Tweet

 

What I learned from being a caregiver

http://bit.ly/familycaregivingquiz

One day I was busy driving my mom to a radiation oncology doctor’s appointment and we were running 15 minutes late. I was stressing out because it took my dad 30 minutes to put on his shirt and he literally thought he was the King of England.

He had just been released from neurological rehabilitation a week prior. Here I was driving like a mad woman when, at the freeway exit stop, I turned my head to see my mom happy and bopping her leg to the song on the radio – not a care in the world.

I made a DECISION at that MOMENT to enjoy the song with her. I turned up the radio and started singing and dancing in the car. I learned a LOT from being a caregiver.

 

Here are My 7 Key Caregiving Lessons learned:

  1. Humor heals. The more we focused on humor (often laughing at ourselves), the less stressed we felt. Humor helps put things in perspective.
    2. Gratitude is a must. I found something… anything to be thankful for each day.
    3. Mindset is huge. We have the power within to be, do and have anything. I have helped heal myself from cancer, a hernia, PE and more and can attest that our mindset determines our reality.
    4. Self-Care is critical. I recently heard someone say that self-care is the new healthcare. I really believe this is true.
    5. Everyone deserves and needs a voice; especially when they don’t have one.
    6. It’s never too early to plan your legacy.
    7. Giving our time, patience, compassion, and love is the highest form of service there is.

7 Powerful lessons learned as a family caregiver

 

Here are 40 Caregiver Lessons Learned

and Advice from Family Caregivers

40 Caregiver Lessons Learnedand Advice from Family Caregivers

I asked my communities what they have learned from being a caregiver and got a tremendous response. Here are the additional 40 best pieces of advice for caregivers:

 

  1. Absolutely e-ver-y-th-ing takes longer. Getting my Mom ready for & taking her to a Dr appt. was an all-day event; it just was. Definitely learn patience. And yes humor, laughing at ourselves is essential.
  2. That we can’t do everything the way other people think we should, patience, and yes everything, everywhere you go takes so much more time.
  3. Every patient is different, and their disease/ disability affects them differently than it may affect another person.
  4. Take care of yourself first so you can be better at taking care of your loved one.
  5. Learn how to smile and redirect.
  6. I have learned that as a caregiver we must wear many hats. I have learned that i must be a business person, a medical professional, an advocate, a mechanic, plumber etc.
  7. I have learned that everything I do is watched by everyone else and judged. I do so with a smile knowing that some may not like what I do, but as long as my caree is happy and safe that’s all that matters.
  8. Don’t sweat the small things.
  9. Everything we do we have learned by watching others – taking from those lessons that which work for us and then putting the rest on the back burner in case it can be used at another time.
  10. The difficult part is remaining polite when we are so frazzled – nodding and saying, “thank you” for each suggestion and then either using it or not.
  11. I’ve learned even in the darkest times there’s always something to be thankful for.
  12. We must take the time to slow down even when we get so caught up in exhaustion.
  13. I have learned that it is okay to just go with the flow and to cancel and move plans around according to how my caree is doing that day or moment.
  14. As long as my caree is content and happy I have been successful.
  15. It’s ok if the floors don’t always get mopped, or the carpets vacuumed, or dishes done exactly to the timetable I want.
  16. It is more important to just be beside my mom when she needs it. I hate this Alzheimer’s and how much it has stolen from my mom. But every day that she knows who she is and who I am is a treasure.  Discover your caregiver personality http://bit.ly/familycaregivingquiz
  17. I’ve learned how to be an adult. My mom used to do everything for me but now I do everything for her and I’m learning about the bills, paying taxes, dealing with the welfare office. I’m doing a lot of things that I’ve never done before.
  18.  I’ve learned we have only this day and to make it count.
  19. When everything seems to be against you is when I learned to just be still, listen to my heartbeat and know I am ok to go on.
  20. Changing my whole life around to take care of my loved one was what I was meant to do. Life goes on after a loved one’s passing but one thing is for sure we will never have a redo…EVER!
  21. Patience – it was never a virtue that I possessed but I’ve had no choice but to have it.
  22.  Strength – you have no idea how strong you are until you have no choice but to be strong.
  23. Time – not just how important every second with your loved ones is and how you should make the most of it but also that I need time to adjust and take care of myself so I can take care of my loved one.
  24. Friends/Family – I’ve really learned who is there for me, and my caree, and who I can count on.
  25. Love – I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl and loved my dad but seeing him go through this terrible disease that is vascular dementia and both the prospect of losing him to it and him eventually not knowing who I am….well, I really know how much I love my dad. 3
  26.  I wish I went more with the flow.
  27. I’ve learned how to get food into a person who does not want to eat.
  28. Respecting individualities.
  29. Find humor where and when you can.
  30. So what if you are a little late. (Except for doctors appointments!)
  31. Sometimes it is okay to not do anything!
  32. I learned that all that we can do in any situation is our best and that is ok.
  33. Treasure every moment that you have with your loved ones and don’t sweat the small stuff.
  34. Live your life and don’t let anything or anyone steal your joy.
  35. I also learned how to deal with, forgive and have compassion for those who are not capable of dealing with traumatic events that happen to those that they love.
  36. No criticizing – no making fun of the person you are caring for.
  37. Respect & Patience!
  38. Live day by day. Don’t plan big things.
  39. If they feel good, take advantage and do something. If not, stay in rest for the next better day.
  40. A good sense of humor can work wonders. Most of all, I learned that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was; and, that life in these flesh bodies is short when you compare it to an eternity.

Your Turn:

What pieces of advice and lessons learned resonated with you the most and why? Comment below! If you have advice to share, feel free to comment with this and I may include it in future updates to this article.

Next Steps:

Want to know your family caregiving personality? Take this quiz and find out!

https://bit.ly/familycaregivingquiz

Uncover your caregiver strengths and superpower. Click HERE to take the quiz. http://bit.ly/familycaregivingquiz

Uncover your caregiver strengths and superpower. Click HERE to take the quiz. http://bit.ly/familycaregivingquiz Click To Tweet
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Tandy Elisala

Family Caregiver Coach, Cancer Empowerment Advocate and Chief Inspiration Officer at Center for Inspiring Greatness | Empowered Family Caregiver
Tandy Elisala is passionate about helping family caregivers go from being overwhelmed and stressed to empowered and calm. Tandy went through cancer four times and learned how to heal using conventional, complementary, and alternative therapy. Tandy left her corporate career to take care of both parents simultaneously while raising three kids as a single mom. She took care of both parents for 2 1/2 years until their respective deaths. Tandy now teaches what she learned on her journey. Tandy is a family caregiver coach, a multiple best-selling author, inspirational speaker and mom to three adult kids, one angel dog and one diva cat.

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18 replies
  1. Louise
    Louise says:

    I’ve been an RN for 26 years, the last 12 spent with direct care for my assisted living residents and this article is spot on! My tidbit of insight would be to always take your time. When we rush at caregiving, everything tends to fall apart. It’s our own stress that causes anxiety in those we care for. A task that usually takes 10 minutes will take 30 if we try to rush. Always know when to walk away and relax for a few minutes.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Louise! Your insights about taking your time with EVERYTHING is spot on for family caregivers and professional caregivers, too. Knowing when to walk away and relax helps prevent stress and miscommunication too.

      Reply
  2. Abe
    Abe says:

    I think this is spot on. I have only taken care of my family for about 3 years, but it can be very tough. I felt like you were talking to me. Thanks so much.

    Reply
  3. Jeng Cruz
    Jeng Cruz says:

    I experienced being a caregiver for 5 years and work in other countries and families. Its very difficult taking care of other families and being away from yours. Your post is full of love and compassion. Great writing!

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Jeng. I agree it is difficult taking care of other families while being away from your own. As a professional caregiver, one must strike a balance there. As a family caregiver, it’s hard being there for family 24/7 and maintaining your own life, too.

      Reply
  4. Jackie Harder
    Jackie Harder says:

    Tandy, I love all these. Humor, taking care of yourself (you can’t pour from an empty cup), and learning patience are all valuable lessons. I also think that not caring what other people think — or what their expectations are of you — is vital, too. Until they’ve been there, done that, they have no room to opine.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      That’s exactly right, Jackie! People tend to give advice and judge having never been in a family caregiver shoes. I’m glad you found this article helpful!

      Reply
  5. webly Alfred
    webly Alfred says:

    My favorite lesson is #3. Mindset is everything even with all the money in the world. I love that you were aware of your surrounding and paid attention to how your parents were in the moment and you decided to join in. Sometimes we are so busy worrying about the past and the future that we don’t enjoy the present.

    Reply
  6. Rachel Lavern
    Rachel Lavern says:

    Tandy, I love the story you share about your mom enjoying the song and how you DECIDED to join her and enjoy it also!

    My tip would be being sure to take some time to get up and move/dance at least once per day. This is especially important for those of us who spend a lot of hours sitting and working in front of a computer. It’s even better if you can do it outdoors. Movement are keys for many people, including those with medical and physical conditions, to improve and sustain their energy and wellness 🙂

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Rachel, I love your idea of getting up and dancing or moving at least once per day. This is so important for many reasons. Great addition to this article!

      Reply
  7. Alene A Geed
    Alene A Geed says:

    This is such a comprehensive list Tandy. The advise that hit home for me the most is:
    Giving our time, patience, compassion, and love is the highest form of service there is. Thank you so much for this reminder. I am going to print it out and paste on my mirror. I can be reminded each morning.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      I’m so glad this is helpful for you, Alene. Family caregiving is not for the faint at heart, that’s for sure. I’m so glad this hit home for you.

      Reply
  8. Candess M. Campbell
    Candess M. Campbell says:

    All of these suggestions are so important Tandy. I have not been a caregiver, but many of my clients are nurses and this would be great for them too! Just reading this list I imagine would be validating for someone who has the difficult and blessed job as a caregiver.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Indeed, Candess. This would be invaluable for all caregivers to know and for family caregivers to know they aren’t alone. I also have an article about the top things NOT to say to a caregiver. You can check that out too.

      Reply
  9. Beverley Golden
    Beverley Golden says:

    There is so much experience and compassion in your post, Tandy! Caregiving is challenging, especially when it is thrust upon us when a family member needs our help. For those who choose a career as a caregiver, I believe compassion and empathy are key. My hope is that people do not block out the humanity of the person they are caring for, as we so often hear about in group home settings or when someone has been caregiving for a long time. Your seven points are so human, Tandy. Regardless of someone’s state of being, it is important to see and hear them so they know they are being acknowledged. Of course, for those who are looking after others, so often they ‘forget’ to look after themselves first. I can see how that happens when the caregiving becomes all encompassing. I’m very fortunate that my 102-year-old mother is still independent and self-sufficient, although we do have wonderful care givers who come in daily to help her get dressed and to shower. Other than that, my own experience is when I was ill and needed others to be my care givers. Thanks for the compressive list on lessons and advice for those who are taking care of a family member. It seems the baby boomer generation especially are facing this challenge as they parents age.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Thank you so so much for your kind words, Beverley. My caregiving experience taking care of my parents was one of the worst and best times of my life. I appreciate your validation on all the points I mentioned. WOW about your 102-year-old mother. That’s truly amazing that she is pretty much self-sufficient. It is definitely the baby boomer generation that’s taking the biggest hit for family caregiving.

      Reply

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