Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!
We’re rounding the corner to the home stretch on this 9 part series on Caregiving. It’s amazing to think of the complexity of caregiving. When I told people I was doing this 9 part series they wanted to know what is there to caregiving…you do what the person needs. That’s obviously the simplistic version. It doesn’t take into account all the minutia that often is second nature, not a conscious process. It’s those aspects of your being that are being exercised to the max. This is the opportunity to think about your journey as a caregiver, and down the road, what you’ll do with these gifts and talents you’ve so carefully nurtured and allowed to bloom
V is for Vigilant
When I was thinking about being vigilant, I wanted it to be different from that heightened state of anxiety where you are on pins and needles all the time. There will obviously be points in time when that may be the case if the patient is critical, but vigilant is about a steadfastness, and an awareness. As the caregiver your awareness can not only help a patient get better, but can certainly prevent catastrophe from happening.
As a caregiver you’re watchful. This is key to aiding the patient because your awareness can detect subtle changes that the patient may not even recognize. You may be attuned to certain aspects of the patient’s personality or character so any change is noticeable to you. If you’re caring for the patient’s physical needs you’ll also be familiar with their physical being and if any subtle changes occur, you’re the one who will notice.
This vigilance is also a gift to the medical community. Having someone close to the patient who is aware of the person’s current state is key so if changes do occur you can notify the proper medical professional. I believe that your watchful, alert state (hopefully not all-consuming) is a safety net for the patient and the medical community. You’re the linchpin (as Seth Godin puts it) in the relationship between the doctor and the patient and other support personnel.
Those were examples of supporting the person’s physical needs. You’re also in a position to support their emotional and spiritual needs. If you’ ve been around this person for a while you know when they are down or hurting (emotionally). Having the capacity to recognize this and make arrangements for social connection will aid the patient’s well-being and may give you some free time while the patient visits with friends and family.
The spiritual needs of the patient may be a bit harder to spot, especially if the patient wasn’t particularly religious or spiritual before the diagnosis. Sometimes it’s good to use yourself as a barometer. If you’re feeling lost, internally, then maybe the patient is too. In that case, a spiritual director may be the right person to help with the “big” questions. I’ll be talking a bit about that more in the coming weeks as I begin to explore with you hospice and end-of-life care (November is National Hospice Month).
Thank your for your being vigilant. Thank you for the being alert and in tune enough to recognize the changes that may occur. Thank you for caring and most of all; Thank You for being a caregiver!