If you ask a person whether he or she is a caregiver, most people will say no. But ask yourself: Do you make phone calls to check in on a loved one? Do you drive a family member to doctor appointments? Do you make meals or help someone with grocery shopping? Do you provide hands-on care, such as bathing or assistance with eating? Do you care for a child with special needs? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are a caregiver.

Providing care for a family member in need is an act of love and kindness. As life expectancies increase, medical treatments advance, and increasing numbers of people live with chronic illness and disabilities, more of us will become caregivers at some point.

Caregiving is a journey, and it can be stressful. You may face many new responsibilities, and you may feel overwhelmed and alone at times. But despite its challenges, caregiving can also be rewarding. There are things you can do to make the caregiving process easier for yourself and your loved one.

Learn as much as you can about your family member’s illness and about how to be a caregiver. The more you know, the less fear and anxiety you’ll feel about your new role, and the more effective you’ll be.

Caregiving can trigger a host of emotions. It is important to acknowledge and accept what you are feeling, and don’t beat yourself up about it. Seek out other caregivers; it helps to know you’re not alone.

Know your limits and ask for help. Communicate those limits to doctors, family members and other people involved. Many times, friends and family members want to help, but don’t know how. Make it easier for them by letting them know what they can do.

Caregiving does not mean doing everything for your loved one. Take advantage of community services, and be open to new technologies and strategies that allow your family member to be as independent as possible. Call the Ontario County Office for the Aging for guidance when you need help at (585) 396-4040 or (315) 789-1321

Most importantly, tend to your own needs. Keep up with your health, exercise regularly, eat well and get enough sleep. Be sure to stay social and try to keep balance in your life. If you allow yourself to take a break, it will refresh you for the journey ahead.