Rosalynn Carter said it first: “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

Speak honestly to family and friends. From the beginning of diagnosis, frequent communication with family and friends is much easier than explaining what has happened during caregiving.

  • Expect and prepare for tough talks.  Family and friends process the news about a severe illness differently. They may not accept the reality of the illness. Family and friends may not understand the stress of your caregiving in the beginning. This requires a possibly difficult conversation about the illness, how it will be treated, and what side effects will be expected from the treatment. It is helpful to have a family conversation with the doctor present. This provides an opportunity for questions to be answered accurately.
  • Learn the medical language.  It will help you learn the terminology surrounding your loved one’s illness as a caregiver and a medical advocate. The Internet is a helpful resource, but you need to know what Websites can be trusted and have a hidden agenda.  Don’t believe everything you read on websites. Information may not pertain to the person’s situation. Ask questions of the doctors and nurses. Check the accuracy of your information if you are in doubt.
  • Be aware that pain, stress, and pain medications will release the patient from their social “filter,” and they may say interesting and challenging comments. Listen and be compassionate.
  • Get help with housework—paid or unpaid.
  • Get help with yard work—paid or unpaid.
  • Keep bills and insurance paperwork organized, so there are fewer financial surprises. Make necessary phone calls to insurance companies, and pay bills, or call to arrange payments.
  •  Don’t let things pile up.
  •  Do three things every evening before you go to bed laundry, dishes, and take out the garbage.
  • Enjoy life today.
  • Keep a journal for yourself. If you have never kept a journal, starting one now will help you clarify feelings, manage the stress and plan the work you need to do as a caregiver. I use Evernote, which is an easy-to-use online application program.
  • Take good care of yourself.  Eat quality food, exercise, rest, and learn to say no to outside demands.  See your doctor and dentist for checkups. Get away from the house now and then.
  • Get through each day as best you can, and don’t dwell on mistakes.
  • Contact the conversation project to learn how to have conversations about caregiving: Email: