Care for Caregivers

"There are four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers." – Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

The role of caregiver is a valuable service of love and respect that is often overwhelming and isolating. Bon Secours aims to assist and equip you as a caregiver. By providing practical information and resources on topics such as home safety, disaster preparedness, or stress management, we promote positive outcomes for the care recipient as well as the caregiver.

Everyone has a story, and we want to make sure to include a place to tell those personal stories, believing that a shared experience makes the journey less lonely.


Oftentimes the caregiver role catches us off-guard and at the most unexpected and inopportune moments. Yet whether the need happened gradually or all at once, and whether it was voluntary or not, the outcome is the same. You have a new role as a caregiver, and with that many questions and anxieties may arise.

Our Caregiver Resources page provides information on these topics as you begin your journey.

  • Senior Living – The choice to remain at home versus assisted living or nursing home can be a difficult one to make. Consider your loved one’s personal needs and financial resources.
  • Day and Respite Care – Adult day service is designed to provide a safe and friendly environment for older adults who cannot be left alone. Usually operating on weekdays, adult day services relieve caregivers of their duties for a specific period of time and are less expensive than home health aides or moving your loved one to a nursing facility.
  • Long Distance – Finding local resources and reliable support from a distance requires that you do some homework. Who lives near your loved one that you and they can depend on in your absence? What are the real needs? How often can you visit? Do you know the financial resources of your loved one? How will you balance your life while supporting your loved one?
  • Home Safety – For older adults, there are many hazards in their homes that are often missed simply because they are unaware of the potential harm.
  • Drive or Ride? For many senior adults, independence is defined by their ability to meet their own transportation needs. Knowing when and how to have the conversation about giving up the car keys can be difficult. To begin with, we suggest you take a ride to see if there are problems. In addition, ask yourself these questions: Does he/she drive too slow or too fast? How about tailgating? Does he/she get lost or easily confused? Does he/she have difficulty reading street signs? (When was the last eye exam?) Seniors may not realize that their driving skills are slipping. A refresher course for older adults may help (AAA, AARP, and driving schools offer them.)
  • Managing Medications – Covering the cost of medications can be a challenge for anyone, but for those on a limited income, the choice between paying for necessary medicines and other bills can be difficult. A St. Mary’s pharmacist suggests:

    "As a general recommendation, request that generic medications be used when possible. When brand name medications are needed, patients can look online at the manufacturer’s website to look for drug-specific medication assistance programs that they may need to financially qualify to receive. Sometimes patient’s doctors know about patient assistance programs or can provide samples, as well as care managers here at St. Mary’s. If patients are in desperate need of medications, they can look into using the Fan Free Clinic or the Care-A-Van."

    At Bon Secours Good Health Pharmacy, we offer patients, employees, physicians, and our community an improved dose of good help. Also, with BedsideRx™, we offer a safe and convenient way for patients to obtain prescriptions.

    Many older adults have one or more chronic medical conditions, often requiring multiple prescription and over- the-counter medications. It is essential for older adults and caregivers to understand safe and appropriate medication use, including possible side effects and interactions with food and other drugs.
  • Emergency Readiness – Whether it is a hurricane, snowstorm, or another event, the weather disrupts everyday activities. Making preparations before the storm is essential for older adults and their caregivers. Include key people such as neighbors, friends, and relatives who can help. Keep a list of important phone numbers in a visible place. Prepare a disaster supply kit. Refill prescriptions. Know when to evacuate. If dependent on electricity for medical equipment, be sure backup measures are available and functioning.
  • Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia – Caring for someone with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or dementia has additional challenges. Understanding the disease and then finding the necessary resources to support your loved one and you is essential for health and safety.
  • End-of-life Care (Hospice) – Hospice is a well-established approach to end-of-life care. At Bon Secours, we believe that hospice can provide emotional support and practical assistance at a time when patients and their families need both the most. Bon Secours Hospice will provide all the information you need.
  • Palliative Care – Like hospice, palliative care is about supporting patients and families. Unlike hospice, palliative care is not about a limited life expectancy, but about improving quality of life. Bon Secours Palliative Medicine helps ensure that patients and families dealing with serious illness get the best care possible.

Caregiving is not always easy. All too often, caregivers put aside their own needs and forget that when they take care of themselves, they are better able to take care of their loved one. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more than one-third of caregivers continue to provide intense care to others while suffering from poor health themselves. Our Resources page can lead you to the support you need, including:

We also offer bereavement support through the Bon Secours Bereavement Center of Excellence.

The resources listed below provide information to support you, the family caregivers:

Getting Started

"Ten Steps to Getting Started as Caregiver" provides insight in your journey.

Virginia Caregiver Coalition provides ongoing education programs and resources.

Senior Living

Paying for Senior Care is a website dedicated to help you understand your financial options for long-term care.

MetLife Mature Market Institute includes information and tools on topics such as choosing adult day services, assisted living communities and nursing homes.

Long Distance

Tips for the Long Distance Caregiver

Caring From a Distance is a support organization where you will find a library of caregiving-relevant articles as well as service directories.

So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers About Long-Distance Caregiving

Home Safety

Caregiving Help provides a checklist with ideas and suggestions on how to ensure your family member's safety within their home.

Drive or Ride?

“We Need to Talk” is a free online seminar, provided by AARP, that will help you determine how to assess your loved one’s driving skills and provide tools to help you have this important conversation.

Virginia GrandDriver is an online educational resource with information and resources about staying safe and mobile on the roads as you age.

Managing Medications

Medication Use Safety Training (MUST) for Seniors™ provides information and tips for managing medications safely.

Nutritional Care

Nutritional Well Being of the Caregiver provides information by Barbara Ragland, registered dietitian at St. Mary's Hospital

Additional Health Tips covers such issues as stress, sleep/rest and indigestion, provided by Barbara Ragland, registered dietitian at St. Mary's Hospital

Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia

Care Crossroads is an online community by the Alzheimer’s Foundation that includes education, emotional support, and practical information for the caregiver of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Care for the Caregiver

Caregiver Bill of Rights is a trusted nonprofit resource to help you get the support you need while caring for someone you love.

American Heart Association's comprehensive guide to self-care for the caregiver.

The Family Meeting can help caregivers and their families begin the communication necessary to support the needs of the older family member.

Senior Navigator website includes access to community programs and services for Virginia seniors and caregivers.

General Resources

Five Wishes, a living will created by the nonprofit organization Aging with Dignity

Full Circle of Care, the practical realities of caregiving

National Caregivers Library, articles, forms, checklists and links

NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders)

Senior Citizens Handbook, a resource for seniors, families, and caregivers

Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging

Everyone has a story. As a caregiver, your experience may benefit another in a similar situation. Would you share it? Submissions of 300 words or less may be sent to Lynette Loftus,

"I've learned a great deal about being a caregiver in the past year. Here's something I wasn't aware of until faced with the situation: If you are acting as an advocate for someone who doesn't seem to meet the criteria for assisted living, the alternative isn't necessarily a skilled care facility. Assisted living may be a realistic option if you are willing and able to also provide private care for periods of time throughout the day, and or, night. The assisted living facility will generally reduce their charges because they aren't providing staff to take care of all needs, and the private caregivers can give undivided attention. You may find the expense to be less, and the lifestyle better from many perspectives. – Kathy

“I have been a caregiver for both my mother and mother-in-law. With my mother I learned about this role by the seat of my pants, so to speak. I had never been in this role and found it quite daunting. I now realize that I needed help but other than the caseworker in the hospital, I did not know where to turn. I feel that the most difficult part was in choosing a nursing home for her when she needed it. I might mention that I was an only child with no other family around to help. My husband and my mother never got along, but he was there to help me through this difficult time. When his mother needed help it was a little easier as he was involved. My mother-in-law was able, with our help, to stay in her own apartment until six months before her death. The second time around for me was easier as I had found where to get the help we needed to be effective caregivers.” – Janet, IS Telecommunications

“Being the youngest of seven children, there’s a significant age difference between the oldest and youngest. I didn’t have to deal with health issues for either of my parents before they died, but being a nurse I became my oldest brother’s medical POA after his first stroke. I was involved in the decisions regarding his discharge and transfer to a rehabilitation center. After a setback and readmission I was present when he was admitted to another rehabilitation facility and discussed the criteria he needed to meet before he was discharged. He did well for a short time on his own, but once again I was called to make crucial decisions when he was brought to an ED in a coma after a massive stroke. The decision to make him a DNR, and the final decision to allow him to be a tissue donor ended my responsibility as POA. I know he trusted me with his life and that was a responsibility I never expected to have to carry out. I’m grateful that we had talked about his wishes long before the need arose to face them head on. Anyone who has a loved one should make the time to discuss personal wishes before the need arises.” – Kay

“Becoming a caregiver in your twenties is not something many people ever think about, but I was faced with this scenario at the age of 23. My 54-year-old mother has Type 1 diabetes that went uncontrolled for many years. She has developed many complications, including gastroparesis, retinopathy, neuropathy, and most recently, vascular dementia. Because of her condition, I became a nurse at the age of 24 and her medical power of attorney at 25. Becoming a caregiver can happen at any point in life, whether you’re middle-aged and trying to balance multiple responsibilities, or in my case, in your twenties just starting out in life. It can be both overwhelming and fulfilling at the same time. I struggle with the decision to start my family or hold off to care for her. I think it is important to acknowledge and support caregivers in their efforts to care for loved ones.  Having access to resources and support groups is critical for the care of the loved one and the caregiver. I am proud to be my mother’s advocate and even more proud to be a part of an amazing group of people known as caregivers.” – Meredith, ASU

“In 2007, my 81-year-old father asked me to be his and my mother’s power of attorney just in case it would be needed in the future. My mother has Alzheimer’s disease and my father was her caretaker and took care of their finances. He was meticulous with money. He bought savings bonds and certificates of deposit as well as pre-paid for their funerals, but all of their bills were in his head and he kept no records. I asked him to tell me everything they owned or owed. We made an extensive list of their finances and we thought we had everything on paper. I was prepared to be a power of attorney!  My father became ill in September 2009, deteriorated quickly, and died in December. Acting as my mother's power of attorney, I realized I was not as prepared as I had thought. Even though I had a list of the bills, many of the companies, banks, the Internal Revenue Service and the Veterans Association would not accept my power of attorney. What a mess I found myself in! Learning how to cash savings bonds and certificates of deposit, pay a caregiver, buying insurance, apply for veteran's benefits, and paying bills and taxes has been an unbelievable journey. Since my father’s death, I have learned many things that would be of benefit to other caregivers. As co-coordinator of the St Mary's NICHE program, I realize that I have a mountain of knowledge to share with others. As a power of attorney or caregiver, we owe our elders to be respectful of their needs and finances.” – Colleen Herbig, 2North

Still have questions or cannot find what you are looking for? Please contact:

Judith DellaRipa, RN, FNP-BC, MS
Advanced Practice Nurse for Medical Surgical Services/NICHE Program Co-Coordinator
P: 804-287-7966 | F: 804-281-8053

Jane Ivey, BSN, RN-BC
NICHE Program Co-Coordinator
P: 804-281-8328