How to Be the Best Family Caregiver for Someone with a New Diagnosis


New family caregivers can benefit from these tips as they navigate helping a loved one following a new diagnosis.

It may have been suspected, or perhaps broadsided you out of the blue. Mom has just received the official diagnosis for a progressive disease that’s going to make independent life challenging. While there are a number of unknowns, one thing is for sure: she’s adamant about remaining at home – meaning you’ll have some decisions to make on how to provide for the care she will need.

Welcome to life as a family caregiver! If you’re feeling a bit stressed with what can be expected next, these guidelines can help.

  • Learn as much as you’re able to about the disease. The older adult’s physician can provide you with resources and educational materials that will help you know what to expect and to gain confidence in your caregiving role.
  • Prioritize organization. Create a folder to save important paperwork: prescription details, test results, contact information for doctors’ offices and also the pharmacy, and any other relevant medical information. Start a journal to help keep track of any changes in condition or concerns that arise, as well as the details surrounding those changes.
  • Put aside past hurts. A new diagnosis could cause old family dynamics to resurface. If unresolved issues are interfering with your ability to provide the best care, seek the support of a professional counselor to effectively work through them.
  • Determine boundaries together. Speak with the individual about how much and what kind of assistance could be beneficial. It’s natural to want to step in and take over; nevertheless, it’s important for the senior to maintain as much independence and control as possible.
  • Take care of yourself, too. Your personal health and wellness are equally important. And, the level of care you provide may be affected if, for example, your own needs are not being met. Designate and prioritize time each and every day for self-care by seeking out and accepting help from others.

It is vital to be familiar with the risk for caregiver burnout and depression, and to take steps immediately should you begin to experience red flags including:

  • Increased anxiety, agitation, and irritability
  • Retreating from social interactions
  • Lack of interest in once-enjoyed activities
  • Resentment
  • Loss of appetite
  • Issues with falling or staying asleep
  • Difficulty with focus and concentration
  • Exhaustion

Identifying a dependable care partner will provide you with the time needed to see a physician for a checkup to rule out other potential health problems, to talk to a therapist to work through the numerous emotions involved with caregiving, and to relax and recharge.

The caregiving team at CareWorks Health Services is here with additional resources for family caregivers, in addition to skilled, dependable respite care services that allow for a healthy life balance. Contact us at (949) 859-4700 for a complimentary in-home consultation to find out more about our award-winning Newport Beach memory care and home care services. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.