When a loved one is diagnosed with a new condition, many family members struggle with how to best support them. African Americans have a higher prevalence for several conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes, and we often find ourselves acting as caregivers for our loved ones. When taking on that responsibility, it can be challenging to know where to start. If you’re a caregiver, try some of these tips to help you help your loved one(s), brought to you by TYLENOL®.
Be patient. Allow time for your loved one to process what is likely an overwhelming amount of information about their condition. And give yourself this gift of time too. Managing a chronic illness is hard work for them—and for you.
Learn all you can. Educate yourself about the disease or condition your loved one is facing. Tag along to doctor’s appointments and classes, with their permission. Ask the doctor your questions, but try to hold off on offering any advice, leave that to their physicians—it will mean more to them to have your support and attention.
Know about over the counter pain medicine. As you discover more about the condition, take note of what over the counter pain medications may be the right option. For example, ibuprofen can sometimes raise blood pressure. And while aspirin often is recommended by doctors to help prevent a heart attack or stroke, the American Heart Association identifies acetaminophen (TYLENOL®) as a pain relief option to try first for patients with, or at high risk for cardiovascular disease, as it is not known to increase risks of heart attack, heart failure, or stroke, like non-aspirin non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can.
Dive in a little deeper. During this initial discovery phase, after you’ve processed the emotions that you may have experienced, begin to take your research deeper. For example, read labels on foods and medications, know the numbers for high blood pressure, learn how to administer insulin for diabetes, find out what to avoid after stroke, and much more.
Do some networking. Get the names and numbers of everyone on your loved one’s care team, so you know exactly who to contact and for what. Plus, add a neighbor or two to your contacts if you don’t live with your loved one—this way you have someone close by that you can connect with if you ever need to.
Team up. Their diagnosis may mean making some lifestyle changes. Going through that alone may feel isolating, so think of ways to make changes as a team or a household. For example, maybe they need to make healthier meals. Research new recipes and go food shopping together, then you can cook them together or even over video chat!
Set attainable goals. Taking a step-by-step approach is the easiest way to make permanent changes. For example, if your loved one will be adding exercise to their daily plan, you don’t need to have them train every morning. Start by taking a daily walk around the neighborhood, then gauge how they feel. Take it day by day—setting another small milestone and then another until you’ve met and surpassed your goals.
Open communication. Ask your loved one how you can be helpful to them—and get specific. Offer what you can do instead of what you cannot provide. If your help is refused, let them know you are there for them when they are ready. And as hard as it may be, try not to push it—when you add pressure, you may increase their resistance to your help.
Join a group. While there are many organizations that help patients, did you know that there are caregiver groups too? Attend a meeting or two and see what you think. You may find that sharing your experiences and seeing what others are going through can help relieve some of the stress for you and provide you with the comfort and support you need as a caregiver.
Get affairs in order. It may be necessary to manage more than just the health care needs of your loved one. You may have to look after their finances or take legal considerations into account. For example, check into their Power of Attorney, health care proxy, living will, DNR (do not resuscitate notice), pooled trust, and more. While these can be hard conversations to have, they are really important for everyone involved.
Take care of you too. If you’re stressed and exhausted, it is difficult to be your best self for those who need you. Recognize the moments when you need to care for yourself and take the time to do it—you and the one you care for will both be better for it.
To learn more about how to care for your loved ones, click here for additional articles from TYLENOL®. https://www.essence.com/healthequity/