10 Simple Steps for the Caretaker

The Caretakers

The Caretakers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Have you suddenly found yourself in the role of taking care of someone else all the time. Maybe it is your beloved spouse who used to be so vibrant and energetic or perhaps an aging parent or in law. Or maybe you are caring for a child or grandchild who is ill or mentally challenged.

This post was inspired by the work of Johnny Delirious, author of the upcoming book Cocaine Addiction Cured: Helping a Loved One Survive and Thrive and a new radio show about the same topic. Many of us, caretakers as well as health professionals, are so concerned about helping the “patient” that we often overlook the very real, very important, needs of the one taking care of the patient.

Some people willingly care for someone they love, regardless of the personal toll it takes on their own time and energy and emotional well being. Others get thrust into this care taking roll, unexpectedly and feeling a great deal of resistance and resentment.

Caretakers may put on an outward attitude of devotion and having it all under control. But inwardly, the one who is not ill may be extremely stressed and unhappy, living with a sense of “Stop the world, I want to get off.” Even if you truly want to help another person, it is essential for you to evaluate the situation, enlist outside and internal resources, and to seek help when needed. You won’t feel so stressed or resentful. The patient or client won’t feel like such a burden. And your intimacy, concern and mutual caring can grow.

Here are 10 simple steps to for a caretaker to follow to provide nurturing for yourself and the other person:

1. Gain clarity about the exact diagnosis, prognosis and outside assistance required

2. Locate the appropriate external resources available to the patient.

3. Express often your love, concern and empathy for the patient.

4. Recognize and affirm the internal resources inherent within the patient.

5. Know yourself and what assistance you can and cannot give, provide, and promise

6. Acknowledge and clearly state your own needs, limitations and boundaries

7. Arm yourself with outside support just for YOU, for YOUR emotional and physical health

8. Learn and practice self-help, stress management techniques to keep yourself balanced

9. Indulge in activities that nurture your spirit and allow you to be carefree and have fun

10. Develop an accepting and higher consciousness mindset

Knowing that life is precious and fragile, that illness and pain are a natural part of life, and that everything is temporary, can help to ease your own and your patient’s suffering. If you follow these 10 steps, you can rest assured that you have done everything possible for everyone concerned.

Don’t struggle alone. Seek help if you feel you need some support. Schedule a private coaching session at www.DrEricaWellness.com.

Please remember that you DO have the strength and you WILL be able to manage, especially if you follow the 10 steps described above.


Dr. Erica

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1 Johnny Delirious { 02.17.11 at 2:05 pm }

Thank you Dr. Erica Goodstone for providing these steps. Sometimes with my loved one I feel useless, especially when my best efforts are not effective and good results are not the outcome. Challenges of helping a loved one survive and thrive can seem insurmountable, however with your article and your 10 steps there is finally a road map out of the jungle of fear and confusion that can often bind the caretaker to pain and inadequacy. Thank you for giving some tips on what it takes to be constructive, especially for those who have stepped up to be the caretaker. I will refer to you and your 10 steps often. Thank you so much!

2 Dr. Erica Goodstone { 02.17.11 at 8:54 pm }

Thanks you for such an insightful comment. Your radio program is an inspiration and will provide so much needed help and resources for caretakers, an often forgotten and neglected group of caring people.

3 Angela { 02.21.11 at 7:10 pm }

I work with caregivers as a supportive coach. I share this and similar information with them. It is more challenging to care for someone else when you are not in balance with your own needs and desires. Thank you for such useful and valuable points.

4 Dr. Erica Goodstone { 02.21.11 at 9:11 pm }

It is also much easier to become unbalanced when you are focused on caring for another person. But it necessary to care for yourself in the process or you will get burned out. You seem to be doing some pretty valuable work.

5 Trish Kirby { 02.25.11 at 8:57 pm }

Thank you for posting such an informative article. I have just recently realized the day may come very soon that I will be one of those caregivers taking care of a loved one. It’s very scary to think about but essential in being prepared because it’s more likely than not that one can avoid it. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and expertise.
God Bless,
Trish Kirby recently posted..Choose Wellness over IllnessMy Profile

6 Dr. Erica Goodstone { 02.26.11 at 12:09 am }

Hi Trish,
Thanks for your comment. It is so true, more likely than not, at some point most of us will have to deal with being a caretaker or requiring someone to take care of us, even temporarily from an illness or injury. It is good to be prepared.

7 Dr. Debra { 03.10.11 at 6:51 pm }

Dr. Erica,
This is an important message for all baby boomers as we start to age. I found myself in the caretaker role when my husband had knee replacement surgery. It was very tiring to go to the hospital and skilled nursing each day. Even when he came home, his need for attention distracted me from doing my daily routine.

I found it helped to ask some of his friends to fill in for me at the hospital and at home. They enjoyed visiting and I was able to continue my work and daily activities.
For anyone facing a long-term recuperation or caring for a spouse or close friend during end of life care, your 10 points are very valuable.

Thannks for a great post.
Dr. Debra recently posted..Batterers Use DV by ProxyMy Profile

8 Dr. Erica Goodstone { 03.11.11 at 4:47 am }

Dr. Debra,
Thanks for sharing your personal story. It is so important to find a way to take care of yourself, to nurture yourself, while you are caretaking for somebody else.


9 Jaclyn Castro { 06.21.11 at 11:16 pm }

Hello and thank you Dr. Erica for sharing the importance of taking care of yourself first and foremost most especially when we are in a position to provide special needs to a loved one.

I have someone in my husband’s family that is caring for his wife and I have thought of the stress he may be going through. I can only imagine how much time and energy is required to do such a task (not just daily but hourly).

Reading your post is a simple reminder that caregivers have a huge responsibility and that it’s inevitable that they may at times feel guilt for WANTING day of…let alone an hour off.

The bottom line is that these caregivers are holding a full/part time occupation of nursing another being which requires a LOT of time and energy on their own part.

Mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually this can take a toll, and THAT is the significance of putting your oxygen mask on first before you put it on the patient.

Thanks again Dr. Erica for making this known to all caregivers and acquaintances of caregivers.

Looking forward to coming back to your site and learning more about baby boomers and how to keep healthy.

-Jaclyn Castro
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10 Dr. Erica Goodstone { 06.22.11 at 1:56 am }

I keep meeting women who have married men about 20 years older and at this point are having to deal with their spouse’s illnesses and infirmities. It is certainly a life changer. Couples that used to travel, play sports, socialize may become isolated without much assistance when one becomes ill. It is a huge problem in our society now because most of us do not live near our extended families.

11 Beverly Knox { 03.09.13 at 6:09 am }

Dr. Erica Goodstone You article touched my heart. I have been in health care for many years. Help raised a family of eight which include my husband and I, two adopted daughters along with four natural children. I also have done foster care in home. All that have been accomplish in my life, taking care of a elderly parent I believe will give me a run for my money. Your 10 steps for caregiver help me put things in perspective and to know that there is professional help in the community for the asking. Thanks for this knowledge.

12 Dr. Erica Goodstone { 03.09.13 at 7:59 am }


So glad you found my post useful. You are doing a wonderful deed, caring for your mother, and it is also important for you to take care of yourself.


Dr. Erica