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Caring for the caregiver

Caring for someone isn't the same as loving them, says Donna Cohen, professor of aging and mental health at the University of South Florida and co-author of Caring for Your Aging Parents (Tarcher/Putnam, 1995, $10.95). Caregiving requires planning, problem-solving, delegating and working with others as a team.

Successful caregivers don't try to do it all, she says. They ask for help from support groups, local agencies, home health aides, friends and relatives. They educate themselves about their loved one's medical condition. They balance their needs with their loved one's needs. They make time for themselves, taking short daily breaks and longer vacations. They are honest about their physical and emotional limits.

Nearly 70 percent of the caregivers in a survey commissioned by the National Alliance for Caregiving used a positive word to describe how they felt about their duties.

If you are a caregiver who needs help or if you're a friend who wants to provide it, study these checklists from the NAC to create a plan of action _ a gift of caring _ for someone who does caregiving daily.

If you're a caregiver who needs help or if you're a friend who wants to provide it, use these handy checklists to help create a plan of action:

Help I need:

A night out with friends

A ride to doctor appointments

Someone to mow the lawn

Dinners prepared

Insurance forms filled out and filed

A shoulder to cry on

The house cleaned

The shopping done

Help with paying the bills

A weekend away

A regular home-care aide

Someone to ask how I am

More information on available resources

A neighbor or two I can call in an emergency

Some quiet time alone at home

A handyman

A sitter for (my spouse/parent/child) so I can go to ( )

Understanding that we're the same people we used to be but our family's needs have changed

Pick up prescriptions and other items

Help with car repairs

Help I can offer:

Dinner and movies on me

A regular ride at a preassigned time

A lawn mowed

A meal prepared ( ) times a week

Help with insurance or other paperwork

A shoulder to cry on

A maid once a ( )

Grocery shopping every ( )

A ($ ) check

A prearranged weekend getaway

Coordinating a volunteer team to help out with specific caregiving tasks

A weekly phone call

Resource research

My availability and desire to help out

Taking ( ) out for a few hours

A couple of hours of my tools and time

Some of my time to stay with ( )

A real desire to be your friend, to stand by you and to understand as best I can how to participate in your changed life

Run errands

A pick-up at the garage and an offer to be a chauffeur for a day or two

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