Caregiving Wishes for the New Year and Every Year
While some people have the luxury of progressing slowly into the role of a caregiver, all too often the circumstances are a quick shove into a new reality with very little preparation. We face challenges head-on, and they can sometimes leave us with a concussion. So, here are some caregiving wishes for you as we go into a new year:
Nowhere in the open-ended caregiving job description does it say “superhuman”. This is why the opening song for my weekly radio show, Caregiving S.O.S. (Wednesday, 2:00 p.m. EST on www.W4WN.com), is Superwoman by Mina Tank. Let’s be realistic: you’re the same person that you were when you became a caregiver. You have the same training—or lack thereof. You have now added someone else’s needs (many of which you will learn as you go) on top of your own very long list. Do the best that you can. Regardless, you will make mistakes. Focus on not messing up the important tasks—for instance not overdosing the patient. Keep things in perspective. Is it a catastrophe or merely a bump in the road? Accept it, learn from it, and then move on.
Fuel for your body and soul should be a daily priority, especially in times of crisis. Your own health is possibly even more important than the patients. If you get sick, then you will both need care. You can also pass along your illness to the patient. That’s a lose-lose situation. Being aware of your own needs isn’t selfishness; it’s self-preservation. Take all of your medications. Maintain as many of your doctor’s appointments as you possibly can. Take time to exercise, eat right, and sleep (well, as much as you can).
Where is that handy sidekick? Superwoman needed Supergirl. Look to your left and right. There are probably people there. What’s wrong with a little delegation in your time of need? Lay the groundwork up front. Make a list of strengths by person, such as “handyman”, “gardener”, “cook”—and the all-important “counselor”. If your volunteers have to tell you “no” because of another obligation, don’t view that as a personal rejection. If the patient objects to asking anyone for help, try to arrange things seamlessly so they may not even notice. Regardless, you will need help.
Keep as much of your own life intact (without guilt) as possible. Underneath the cape, Superwoman was still Lois Lane. While your normal life may be temporarily on hold, you need to have your own time and space. Consider it “sanity time”.
Steal your moments—laugh with a friend, go to a good movie, stare at a beautiful sunset, get your hair done—grab a gift today just for yourself.
Loving someone with a critical, live-changing illness means that you may have to keep your shields up. When you’re on the “front line”, sometimes you get the brunt of the frustration that’s brewing inside of the patient. Try to determine the source of the problem—is he or she in pain? Do they feel that they’ve lost control of their own life? When bitter words are said, it might sound like they’re directed at you personally. Guard your heart. Set up a code word that means “time out”. If that doesn’t work, sometimes you just have to retreat. Return later when cooler heads prevail. You need each other.
Being a caregiver doesn’t mean that you can shut off your own emotions. Under any high-stress situation, you may get angry, cry, be depressed, and need an outlet to express yourself. Don’t ignore it. Do you prefer a little private time, or a long talk with a friend? Take that time—otherwise, you may find yourself bringing down the one person that you’re trying to build up—the patient. Have you ever noticed that your mood is contagious? And, angry words can lead to guilty pain. Emotional wounds are the hardest to heal.
Humor—in any measurement—is the element that will keep you going. Reach out for it when and where you can. Chances are that the patient doesn’t want to be in a gloomy mood either. Instead of watching a docudrama on TV, choose an uplifting comedy. Laughter has been proven to improve mental—and even physical—health.
Give yourself a pat on the back, even if the patient doesn’t think of it. Take time to be proud of what you’re accomplishing, and applaud the courage that it takes to give selflessly to someone that you love. Caregiving isn’t easy: “The faint-hearted need not apply.”
Author’s note: I wish for you a new year where the Serenity Prayer will sustain you: God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Many patients and caregivers find this simple prayer to be their greatest comfort.
HOPE: a one syllable word that will keep you going when all of the other more impressive words have failed to sustain you. ~Joni James Aldrich
The Saving of Gordon: Lifelines to W-I-N Against Cancer
(available at www.BasketofCare.com)
Based on Joni’s experience and years of research, this inspirational and informative book is designed to give families a fighting chance in their own cancer battle.
Connecting through Compassion: Guidance for Family and Friends of a Brain Cancer Patient: Co-authored by an expert on brain illnesses, this book contains information that every brain cancer caregiver needs.
Would you like to send something special to someone that’s going through a health-related hardship? Instead of a plant or flowers, why not send them a Basket of Care (www.BasketofCare.com)? These baskets are lovingly designed by a cancer survivor, and chock full of items that will lend comfort. Care baskets include such items as warm blankets, angels, slipper socks, hope messages, note cards, and books by Joni Aldrich. Or what about a “Day at the Beach” basket for a child who is ill? A Basket of Care is just the way to say, “I care”.