5 Tips on Navigating Caregiving

By Ashley Barnes, M.S.


Rosalind Carter, former First Lady of the United States once said that “there are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers. Caregiving is universal.”

A caregiver is a paid or unpaid member of a person’s social network who looks after a sick, elderly, or disabled person. Oftentimes, caregivers are family members. Caregivers assist a person with tasks of daily living such as grocery shopping and cooking, housework, transportation, medical care, bathing, managing personal services (like talking to doctors or paying bills), and much more.

Caregiving can be mentally, emotionally, and physically taking for caregivers which can then impact the quality of caregiving. The following are tips on how to better navigate caregiving in a way that is beneficial to both the caregiver and the person being cared for:

Take Care of YOU

Self-care is extremely important for caregivers, as caregivers have a high risk of burnout and compassion fatigue, as caregiving can be emotionally draining and demanding work. Just as we are instructed on planes to put oxygen masks on ourselves first before helping those around us, we also need to take care of ourselves in order to be able to help others.

While self-care looks different for everyone, engaging in self-care practices promotes mental health, spiritual health, physical health, and mind-body balance. Self-care describes anything we can do to take care of ourselves so we can stay physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally well. This may look like listening to calming music, meditating, or exercising (to name a few).

Get Support for YOU

Group consultation programs are wonderful resources for caregivers. These programs have been found to be widely effective in addressing the caregivers’ emotional needs, teaching behavioral and relaxation techniques, and in acting as a source of social support. These programs help caregivers talk about their feelings with others and feel less isolated, which aids in effective coping with stress associated with their role.

Local community centers often implement intervention programs for family members under caregiving stress. Group therapy is another source of support where those going through similar hardships in caregiving can come together, support, and validate each other. 

Effective Communication

Communication is imperative, especially between you and your loved one as well as with their medical team. Communication between you and your loved one is crucial in the caregiving relationship. Sometimes, we are caregivers for those who have lost verbal skills, or struggle to put their experience into words. Communication can look like relying on gestures to communicate with them effectively. It can look like your loved one writing the words down if that is easier for them. 

If you’re caring for a loved one with a terminal illness, a neurodegenerative disease, or who is elderly, they will likely have many doctors or a medical team working with them. Communicating with doctors and medical personnel helps us understand what we need to provide for our loved ones, and will allow us to advocate for them if necessary. 

Educate Yourself

It can be mutually beneficial for you and your loved one if you educate yourself on what your loved one is experiencing. For example, if your loved one is experiencing Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, it can be helpful to educate yourself on the disease, symptoms associated with the disease, and best care practices. You’ll know more about what to expect and what you’ll encounter while providing care, as well as how to better car for your loved one’s needs. 

Let Us Support You and Your Loved One

Here at the  Mental Health Center we have skilled adult and geriatric psychiatrists ready to support you and your loved ones: 

  • Jooyeon Lee, MDDr. Lee is a psychiatrist specializing in general adult and geriatric psychiatry. She has worked with patients from diverse backgrounds in various settings including academic institutions, city/county hospitals, and the Veterans Administration Hospital. She is board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and board-certified in Geriatric Psychiatry. Dr. Lee was selected for the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry Honors Scholars Program for Residents in 2017. Her work has been published in journals including Experimental Gerontology, Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, and the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.
  • Lydia Ann, MDDr. Lydia Ann is a psychiatrist specializing in general adult psychiatry and a current geriatric psychiatry fellow. She has extensive experience treating patients of various backgrounds in multiple settings, including outpatient, inpatient, partial hospitalization, crisis residential program, emergency department, and corrections. Due to this broad experience, she emphasizes the importance of care coordination and integration of one’s entire support system to bring excellent, individualized care to each patient. Dr. Ann is completing further specialized training in geriatric psychiatry fellowship at UCLA.
  • Miriam Winthrop, MD – Dr. Miriam Winthrop is a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in adult and geriatric psychiatry. She believes in taking a holistic approach to addressing mental health. In addition to her expertise in the use of medications, she has extensive training in multiple types of psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral and insight-oriented modalities. Dr. Winthrop has extensive experience working with a wide range of issues, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, dementia-related concerns, and end-of-life issues. She received her medical degree from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. She completed her residency in adult psychiatry at LAC+USC Medical Center. She completed her fellowship in geriatric psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She was selected as an Honors Scholar in the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry and received the award for excellence in psychotherapy from the Austen Riggs foundation.