For New Caregivers: What I Wish I Knew Before I Started Caregiving

Starting Caregiving Moments of Happiness

Educate yourself about the disease and available treatment options

Learning about your loved one’s disease or condition can make the task of caregiving less daunting. Many conditions have online resources about the condition and its progression, treatment options, and management tips. Your loved one’s doctor or healthcare provider may be able to share any tips and tricks that they’ve picked up from their work within healthcare. You can also search for information on some of the common conditions caregivers encounter on our website’s Family Caregiver Toolbox.

Understanding your loved one’s condition can help you understand what they are going through. Knowing what to expect may ease some of the anxiety and uncertainty you and your loved one have about the future. The loss of independence is difficult to grapple with. The loss of independence may be accompanied by anxiety, frustration, loneliness, feeling unsafe, poor health, memory loss, and worry over finances. Creating a space of understanding can help ease frustration for both you and your loved one.

Learn how to manage your own emotions and reactions

One way to manage your own emotions is by being present. There are some things you will not be able to do, and that’s okay. If you find yourself in a position where things feel out of control, be there for your loved one, not troubled by things you cannot control. You can be present with your loved one by engaging in activities with them. These activities can look like spending quality time together by doing things such as cooking or baking, gardening, local sightseeing, crafts, playing games, reading, and exercising.

The single most important thing you can do to function effectively as a caregiver is to create and maintain a comprehensive file of information about the person you are caring for. Staying organized can help manage the stress that comes with caregiving. Staying organized can aid in establishing trust between your loved one and all those involved in their care.

Establishing methods of communication can assist in building trust as well. Establishing a routine can help you stay organized and relieve some anxiety that your loved one may be experiencing by creating a reliable living environment.

Keeping a journal can be a tool for staying organized and taking care of your mental health. Journals can look like classic paper and pencil journals or like ones kept digitally. Online storefronts such as Amazon and Etsy offer journals specifically designed for caregivers and printable journal templates as online resources. These journals help caregivers stay organized by tracking business-related information such as expenses, utilities, and other bills. Caregivers can use these journals to record details of phone calls, in-home health services, and doctors’ appointments.

Take care of yourself …get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, exercise, etc.

Taking care of yourself is key to avoiding caregiver burnout. Set aside time for taking care of yourself by scheduling it into your day. Self-care can involve eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water, exercising, setting boundaries, and getting enough sleep. Tips on how to cope with caregiver burnout can be found on our blog (insert the link when it’s ready!)

Find resources to help you cope with the challenges of caregiving

Technology can be a useful tool to manage the challenges of caregiving. Personal emergency alert technology may bring peace of mind not only to you but to your loved one as well. Some apps that can help manage caregiving are out there as well.

Caring Village is an app that is available to both Android and iPhone users and allows caregivers to make to-do lists, create care plans, keep a calendar, keep a medication list, store documents, and keep a wellness journal. A link for more information about the app is available here.

Lotsa Helping Hands is an app available only to iPhone users that functions similarly to social media platforms. Caregivers can create centralized calendars shared with their support circle, allowing others to offer words of encouragement. The app lets you post announcements for care team members and allow members of your community to volunteer. Members of your care team can see and respond to these announcements, ensuring everyone stays informed and involved.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it

This transition into caregiving can be stressful, and it is important to know that you are not alone in this experience. There are online and in-person support resources. The Agencies and Organizations resource on our website provides a list of trusted agencies and organizations that can provide support for new caregivers.

CAN’s Caregiver Help Desk offers free support to family caregivers nationwide. You can contact the Help Desk via phone, e-mail, and live chat. Experts are available to assist caregivers Monday – Friday from 8 AM to 7 PM Eastern Standard Time.

For more information and resources for new caregivers, check out the I Just Realized I’m a Family Caregiver page on our website.


CAN: Patient File Checklist

CAN Self-Care: Eating a Balanced Diet

Self-Care: Exercising

CAN: Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

Agencies and Organizations

CAN’s Caregiver Help Desk

CAN: I Just Realized I’m a Family Caregiver

Caring Village App

Lotsa Helping Hands App