Understanding the legal issues associated with long-term care can help you prepare for your role as a caregiver. While every caregiving situation is unique, there are a few commonly used legal documents covered in this section that you might be interested in knowing about. The following is an overview and is not meant to serve as legal advice. The laws regarding these documents can be complex and can vary widely from state to state. Consult legal counsel as needed to guide any legal decision.

  1. Living will. This type of document describes a person's wishes with regard to life-prolonging measures related to terminal illness or permanent vegetative states, should he or she be incapacitated and unable to communicate these instructions.
  2. Durable Power of Attorney. With this type of document a person can instruct that someone else (named in the document) is allowed to make decisions and transact business on their behalf. The document is "durable" if it provides for this relationship to continue once the person has become incapacitated. Power of Attorney may be limited to certain types of decisions and transactions, healthcare and medical treatments.
  3. "Do-not-resuscitate" order. If a person decides that they do not want to be resuscitated, if their heart were to stop or if they should stop breathing, they can include this order in their medical records, hospital intake forms, and anywhere else the instruction might be appropriate.

When you're caring for others, it's critical that you first take care of yourself. By not doing so, you put yourself at risk of stress, guilt, exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy.

These caregiver support tips can help you take care of yourself.

  1. Recharge Every Day. Get regular exercise, even just a few minutes several times a day. Exercise promotes energy and well-being. Also, set aside at least a few minutes of quiet time each day, and be sure you're getting enough sleep.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Diet. When you are busy, it is easy to forget to eat healthy foods. When your schedule allows, try to eat meals with friends and family. This may help you will slow down and enjoy the company.
  3. See Your Doctor. By keeping up with your own medical appointments and screenings, you have a better chance of staying healthy. Also, watch for signs of depression, which is very common in family caregivers. Get extra support and professional help if needed.
  4. Take a Break. Recognize stress and take steps to manage it, and lean on friends and family for emotional support. Understand that your need for relaxation increases during periods of caregiving, so remain involved in hobbies and things that you enjoy.

Changing dietary needs.

Every season of life can bring changes and adjustments to the body. Understanding these changes will help you and your loved ones by making sure that any new nutrition requirements are being met.

  • Generally, seniors tend to retain the ability to distinguish sweet tastes the longest, which can lead to over indulgence.
  • Taste and smell can diminish with age. Some people may be inclined to salt their food more heavily than when they were younger.
  • Medications and illness can negatively impact and influence appetite. They can also affect taste and may prohibit eating certain foods.
  • Digestion slows down with age, and there may be a decrease in saliva and stomach acid. This can make it difficult to process certain vitamins and minerals, such as B12, B6 and folic acid, which help maintain mental alertness, a keen memory and good circulation.
  • Changes in lifestyle brought on by death, divorce, loneliness and depression can present challenges to maintaining good nutrition.