When a doctor isn’t immediately available, a caregiver is often the second most important person in a patient’s life – particularly if they are struggling with a chronic or terminal illness, have a disability, or are elderly and in need if someone to help them take care of their everyday necessities. At some point in our lives we will either know someone in need of a caregiver, know someone who has already had the help of a caregiver, or be in need of that kind of care ourselves.

Caregivers come in many different forms. A caregiver can be that of a friend, a family member, a neighbour, or a trained medical professional such as a home-care nurse. Regardless, the role of a caregiver also comes with a long list of responsibilities that are relied upon by the patient. Some typical tasks of a caregiver include:

• Grocery shopping
• Meal planning
• Cleaning house
• Doing laundry
• Caring for pets
• Ordering medications
• Administering medications (such as pills and injections)
• Arranging medical appointments
• Bathing
• Dressing
• Bathroom needs
• Getting the patient in/out of bed
• Physical therapy
• Discussing care plan with relatives and healthcare providers

In some cases, a caregiver may need to be “on call” in the event of an emergency or that the patient does not have anyone else (such as an immediate family member) that is able to provide for them.

When it comes to actually being a caregiver, there are a few things to know before taking on the position. First and foremost, remember it’s not abnormal to feel overwhelmed or confused, especially upon the first few days. To avoid this, it’s important that you get to know the patient – find out about their healthcare wishes, learn about their likes and dislikes, and educate yourself about their diagnosis (if any.) This will allow you to better understand the patient and help you plan ahead for their needs. If the patient does have immediate family, meeting for weekly discussions can also be beneficial and help you provide the best care possible to the patient. Lastly, there are many different training courses available for caregivers, which can help to improve your confidence and teach you necessary information should an emergency ever arise – such as CPR.

For more information, visit Family Caregivers of British Columbia.