Welcome to Caregiver Friday!
This week I’ve been talking to friends, family and colleagues about their caregiving experiences. Over the past twenty two years I’ve seen amazing caregivers who go through each day offering compassion and easing the suffering of those they care for on a daily basis. Some caregiving is temporary but more and more long-term caregiving is the norm.
Caregivers, as you know from first hand experience, are part of a team of providers that includes the rest of the health team. The major difference is that family/friend caregivers go home with the patient and the other member of the team get to keep a safe distance. Being up close and personal with the patient requires patience and compassion. It requires the ability to think rationally, especially in times of chaos or crisis.
What I notice is that caregivers often re-arrange their lives to be able to keep running on all cylinders. They give up time with their own friends, deal with decreased financial resources and are asked/required to put their own needs on hold. These are huge sacrifices and are often costly both in physical and emotional health.
There has to be a way to create balance for the caregiver. There are organizations like In Home Support Services (IHSS), but often they have income requirements. There are agencies that provide respite care but it’s not always covered by insurance, until someone is in hospice. You can hire someone out-of-pocket depending on your financial resources or you can get volunteers to help through community nonprofit agencies.
Healthcare providers have to get better at addressing the needs of the patient and the caregiver. We can’t make caregivers sacrifice to the extent that they are left physically, emotionally and spiritually malnourished (literally and figuratively). In order for caregivers to continue providing the needed love, support, and compassion, there has to be some way to allow them to maintain some degree of normality. If we expect caregivers to be sacrificed because illness has created a new normal, we’ll end up with two patients and no caregivers…is that really what we want?
If you have tips to share about how to maintain emotional and spiritual stamina while caregiving please share your story so we can keep caregivers healthy and at peace!