Becoming a caregiver is rarely a role that one will choose as anything other than a career; for many it is not a matter of choice but rather necessity. The challenges one faces can not be understood from the beginning and the obstacles overcome will change you and your world in ways you can’t ever predict.
No case is typical and everyones situation is different but as someone who has recently had this role thrust upon them I wanted to put together some tips to try and help others transition more easily into their responsibilities.
Take Your Sense Of Humor With You
I can’t say enough about how having a sense of humor and keeping it with you at all times is essential. Nothing about anything you will be handling is going to be something you ever wanted to deal with, and being able to find a way to smile will likely be your greatest tool.
It’s Not Permanent. Even If It Is, It’s Not Right Now.
I guess really it’s about being able to step out of the chaos surrounding you and BE in the moment itself. Nothing is forever. Even this situation or illness you’re dealing with. And even if it is a permanent or terminal condition…it’s not always right NOW. Stop. Look at the right now moment and try to find one thing, just one, that has some glimmer of hope to it and hold tight.
You Can’t Fix Everything.
It’s not even your job to. In many cases, especially when caregiving has come by necessity and not choice there are conditions that have been on-going for some time and are simply not within your reach to change. You can’t create new legs or a new heart. This is sometimes the hardest thing to realize when taking care of the person you love. Some times the only thing you can do is BE there, listen, and be a companion through the hard times.
Learn to Listen
I’m not just talking about conversationally, although you will be called upon for that very frequently, and when you are the act of JUST listening is key. Sometimes the person you’re caring for doesn’t want you to fix something, they don’t want a solution, they just want to be heard and have their words acknowledged. Beyond that however learn to listen for what is not there. Your ears will tell you plenty: when your ward is in pain, when they are awake etc, but moreso what you don’t hear will often tell you that you need to act. It’s that quiet few moments before something happens, that once you get attuned to it becomes like an extra sense, and can help you prevent small disasters.
Mind reader is going to be your new job description. You’ll need to know what is needed, and be providing it, before it actually is needed. Over time work these anticipations into your routine – have an ice pack ready to replace the one they’re using, have extra wipes on hand, etc. Once you’ve had time to get to know your specific situations demands this will become easier.
Make Time To Take Time
You have to carve out time for yourself. Whether that be the afternoon coffee break or the evening tea after the one you’re caring for is asleep. As you are likely under more pressure than you’ve ever been before it’s important to have a way to release that stress in a healthy manner; not only for your own good but also for the benefit of the one you’re caring for. When you are less stressed you operate at a higher level and are more able to provide patient care when it is needed.
The phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is very valid, make sure you remember it and take time to care for YOU.
These are just the things I’ve taken from my time as a newly designated care provider; they may not apply to your particular situation.
Most importantly, realize you are not alone and to reach out to those around you when you feel you are. The first few months tend to be the hardest when dealing with a long term prognosis. Things will be hard. Things will get better…even if it’s only because you get stronger.
Do you have an experience as a new caregiver?
Are you someone receiving care and dealing with the new challenges of that reality? WE WANT TO HEAR YOUR STORY!