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‘Tis the time for many of us to look ahead and plan annual goals so as to work, live, feel and/or look better. With diligence, these resolutions can bear fruit. Caregivers are certainly among those individuals who can greatly benefit by setting out (and fulfilling) goals for themselves. These don’t have to be grand or costly – in fact, the smaller promises are often more realistic and far easier to achieve. As a prospective, new or current caregiver, please consider any or all of the following suggestions to make this year a little easier and a little better than last:

  1. Be Human

We strive for perfection. We fear mistakes. We try to juggle so many responsibilities that we have to move increasingly faster to keep them in the air. As caregivers, we get so used to trying to do it all that we forget that we’re human and have limitations. We can’t will the 25th hour of the day into existence. So for this New Year, be human, not perfect. Make a list of what is essential and what isn’t. Making cupcakes for your son’s soccer team is an incredible loving gesture but picking up a cake from the store would be just as thoughtful and a lot less time consuming. Remember that caregiving is temporary—if being super-human works for you, you can return to doing it later. But for today, be flexible with what you can and cannot do.

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  1. List Your Loved One’s Treatments and Medications

Depending on your caree’s medical condition, this may take some doing to get organized and to put this together; however, the work will be well worth it! Include your caree’s current medications, dosages (have these been increased or decreased?), side effects noted and reason(s) for taking. Don’t forget vitamins and/or over-the-counter medications you can pick up at the drug store and any allergies your loved one may have. While you’re at it, record dates of any surgeries or major dental work for your parent. Doctors frequently ask for this type of patient information, so it can be helpful to have your list prepared and ready. Why not print out two copies of the list – one for home and one to carry in your car?

  1. Google

The Internet is a vast library containing information on everything from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to technology, so why not take advantage of it? As an example, I’ve just searched the word “Caregiver” through Google. In mere seconds, I was presented with over seven million “hits” (or information relevant to this subject matter). Caregivers are not bound by regular business hours when using the Internet either and can surf for information at their convenience. If you really don’t have the time (or desire) to spend time on-line, enlist another family member or friend to conduct research for you. One word of advice however … what you may find on-line may not be completely factual. I make it a habit to check my sources (do they have professional designations or related caregiving experience?).

  1. Seek Support from Strangers

That’s right—total strangers. Hopefully your friends and family have been good about checking in on you but we know that isn’t always the case for caregivers. And there are some things you just rather not share with someone who knows you and your caree. In fact, this is a feeling shared by many of us! Sorry, but we’d rather not share the intimacies and frustrations of caregiving with the people in our circle. So in 2014, move totally outside your circle by sharing in an online or local support group. The level of anonymity these groups allows for complete honesty and the shared experience guarantees understanding. Perhaps most importantly a support group meeting allows caregivers important respite time away from the challenges they face. When utilized effectively, support groups allow participants an opportunity to deal with mixed and/or negative emotions (including frustration, anger and regret). Support groups also provide time away for a caregiver. This so-called “respite time”, taken in whatever form, is vital to allow for time to recharge. To find caregiving support groups, try contacting local hospitals and/or senior’s centres. If nothing is offered, ask for recommendations or consider starting a caregiving support group yourself!

  1. Learn More About Your Loved One’s Health Condition

How aware are you about your caree’s disorder? Do you know what to look for with possible side effects? Understand the medication prescription? Ask your loved one’s doctor, read books/watch videos, utilize community resources and/or quiz other caregivers who have been through a similar situation. Keep asking until you completely understand – you and your loved one both deserve to know.