Posted in after the diagnosis, care for the caregiver, Caregiving, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Uncategorized

Caregivers are Undercover Agents

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about all the roles that the caregiver takes on to support someone they love who is sick (or needs extra care like older adults). One of the roles that the caregiver takes on is that of undercover agent. You are the person who watches and takes mental and sometimes written notes about what’s going on with the patient. See the person who is facing a health challenge doesn’t realize that they leave clues wherever they go. It may things like what food gets thrown in the garbage or the amount of time someone spends in the bathroom. You, the caregiver, knows all, sees all and eventually will tell all.

You are the doctor’s first line of defense in finding out the truth about the patient. It’s important that you, if possible, go with the patient to their doctor’s appointment. Unfortunately, patients have a tendency to either downplay the serious of their side effects or their health in general or they out and out lie. That’s when the doctor turns to you and says “So what have you noticed since the last visit?” At that moment the patient is probably sinking into their chair because they’ve been busted.

What the patient doesn’t realize is that by you telling the truth, you help the doctor and in turn help them feel better, increase their hope and are a part of improving their quality of life. It’s not about being a snitch…it’s about wanting the best possible outcome for the patient. Whether the patient is embarrassed about their experience or feel they should be able to “handle it” , why suffer if you don’t have to.

Be proud of your status as an undercover agent. It may cause some tension at home, but in the long run the patient will understand that you are serving them in the highest way possible, by helping them get well.

Posted in care for the caregiver, Caregiving, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, Self-Nurture

Caregiving is Like Being an Air Traffic Controller

Happy 4th of July and welcome to Caregiver Friday.

I’m in awe of caregivers.  Not only do they show compassion and understanding to the person they’re caring for who is ill, but they have perfected the fine art of multi-tasking.  Ever looked at the calendar of a caregiver?  It’s filled with reminders of appointments, lab tests, procedures and on top of that all the other responsibilities for family, work and community.  To be a caretaker you have to be able to prioritize, categorize and memorize information, schedules and on top of that be able to delegate.

Somewhere in the mix it’s crucial that caregivers find a way to get some help.  I know that many say if they ask for help then they aren’t a very good caregiver.  In fact the opposite is true, you become a better caregiver when you understand how to become a caretaker to your own body and soul.

I would like to recommend that caregivers make it a point to have regular physicals.  As is often the case your so wrapped up in taking care of the sick person that you put your own health needs on the back burner…that’s a big mistake.  Don’t just take care of your physical body, take care of your emotional health.  Attend a support group specifically for caregivers.  Learn tips from others who have already walked in your shoes, don’t try and reinvent the wheel.  Take care of your spiritual needs.  I don’t mean you have to go to church/synagogue/mosque etc. but finding that place of quiet can be better than a vacation.

Remember that as the caregiver, you feel responsible for everything, even if that’s not the case…it comes with the territory.  We’ll talk more about delegating in weeks to come, but for now know that you are heroes.  I can’t believe that Hallmark hasn’t created a National Caregiver’s Day, just think of the number of cards they would sell.

You may not hear it often but I’d like to say THANK YOU for your sacrifices, your thoughtfulness and your willingness to care for those you love.  If you need a pick-me-up there is a musical audiovisual program as a free gift at http://www.survivingstrong.com.  It’s something you can go back to over and over to recharge.

I’d love to hear tips on how you cope with caregiving and we could share them with the world.

Posted in care for the caregiver, Caregiving, Self-Nurture

Care for the Caregiver

Too many organizations, books and nonprofit organizations focus on the person with the illness, but one person is seldom the only one impacted by the diagnosis.  We assume that people in our lives are obliged to care for us during our times of need, but is it done willfully and without resentment?  In most cases the answer is Yes.  However,  just like the person who is facing the illness has a road to recovery so does the caregiver.

Caregivers are a unique bunch because the research and my own experiences shows that overwhelming caregiving is done by women.  The order in which caregiving occurs is the following: wife, mother or daughter, sister, sister-in-law.  What happened to all the men?  Of course this isn’t an absolute, there are plenty of men who care for the women in their lives, but overall women do it the majority of the time.

My hope is that caregivers find outlets to recharge their batteries.  It’s like when you listen to the flight attendant giving the safety instructions…”put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then assist those around you who may need your help”.  There is a reason for this sequence, it’s not about being selfish, but you’ll be better equipped to help others if you make sure you have the tools you need so you can keep on providing the necessary care to the person facing the life-altering diagnosis.

Think of it this way…If I give you a penny and ask you to give it away you’re left with nothing.  If I give you two pennies and ask you to give one away you still have a penny-everyone wins.  Caregiving has to included win-win situations.  If not you’ll become depleted and you can’t squeeze blood out of a stone.

Many organizations provide support groups for the support person(s) of those facing an illness.  Those organizations are forward thinking because it gives you, the caregiver, the opportunity to discover coping mechanisms that will keep your battery running.  It will also give you an opportunity to experience a community of your own.  Caregiving is often very lonely and breaking the silence gives you support.

How are you handling your caregiving situation?  Share tips with us so that we can all benefit.

It came to my attention that I need to make caregiving articles a regular part of this dialogue.  Look for the weekly caregiver entry on Fridays…a chance to start your weekend with a bang.