November is National Family Caregivers Month. Have you ever been a caregiver? Have you ever been on the receiving end of caregiving? I have experienced both sides of this particular “coin” and in some ways, being a caregiver is a lot harder. Along with my dad and my siblings, I was a caregiver for my mother during her illness. And of course, when diagnosed with cancer myself, I was the one in need of a caregiver from time to time. Most of us have been or will be a caregiver at some point in our lives.
If you are caring for a loved one due to any reason such as a serious illness, an injury or merely aging, at times it can feel overwhelming. In addition, finding the support you need as a caregiver isn’t t always easy to do, and even when you do find it, carving out time to utilize or implement it isn’t easy either.
On a side note, when I was doing chemo, there was one chemo nurse who asked Dear Hubby how he was doing every single time she saw us. That simple question was so validating for him. He told me many times how much it meant to him and even now, he comments on it from time to time. It’s kind of sad that something so simple doesn’t happen all that often.
If you are a caregiver, or if you know someone who is, here are a few simple tips that might be helpful. I hope you’ll share your tips with a comment at the end of this post.
1. Remember your situation is unique.
Don’t waste time trying to mold yourself, or your situation, into something you or it is not. You are not your neighbor. You are not your sibling. You are not your best friend. You are you and there is only one way to do this too and that’s your way.
2. When caregiving, you simply must still take care of your needs too. You still count.
Obviously, it’s important for you to eat properly, get enough rest and squeeze in some exercise when you can. IMO, rest is most critical of all because if you are reasonably well rested, the other stuff can more easily fall into place. You need to take breaks to take care of you, and this includes taking some breaks to do fun/relaxing things too.
3. Don’t try to do it all.
There are no “super-star caregiver awards” either. Take help when it’s offered. When it isn’t, ask for it if at all possible. Here’s one list of resources. There are many others.
4. Keep notebooks handy to write down stuff from A-Z.
When tired and/or stressed, it’s even harder than usual to remember things, so make lists for anything and everything. Write down questions to take to doctor appointments. Record medication information, dosages and the like. Write down whatever you might forget that is important to you or the person you are caring for. There are some caregiver apps for some of this stuff if you’re into that.
5. Get organized or at least more organized.
This is hard. Believe me, I know because I am not an organized person. But try to set up (and label) files, or at least bins, so you have somewhere to put all those papers that seem to accumulate. Don’t let things just pile up on your counter.
6. Remember you are not alone. Find support; it’s there.
Some people say, stay off the internet. Not me. I would never say that. There is lots of information and there are many places to find support online. Why not utilize it? And connecting with other caregivers is essential, especially if your care giving role will be for the long haul. Some people prefer online support. Some prefer face-to-face support groups. Some like both. Do what works for you. For one starting point, check out Caregiver Action Network.
7. Learn everything you can about your loved one’s condition, situation, prognosis, needs, wants, dislikes, likes, wishes, etc.
And then start advocating on her/his behalf whenever you both decide it’s appropriate.
8. Do your best. It’s enough. Really, it is.
You can’t do it all. So ditch the guilt and just do your best.
So those are my tips for caregivers.
What are yours?
Have you been a caregiver, or are you one now?
Have you been on the receiving end of caregiving?
What advice would you offer?
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