What they only teach in the school of life: Caregiving 101
By Marygrace Lomboy –
Many of the caregivers that I encounter during my hospice work have never been prepared to do the incredibly tough job they are performing every day. Often, the caregiving happens suddenly without any warning. It’s not an easy role, taking a great deal of time, effort, energy and bravery. Emotionally and intellectually it is a challenge. It is the most giving and unconditional love that I have ever witnessed. People taking care of people – without thinking of their own welfare. It brings with it stressors like no other…often the caregiver is dealing with a foreshadowing loss of their loved one and also the physical and emotional challenge of caring for that person. It can be overwhelming. Stress may lead to feelings of anger and frustration about your situation or even toward your loved one. This then may result in feelings of guilt. All of these feelings are very natural, but should be a signal to you that you may need some balance. I have witnessed many caregivers struggling to find the right balance between care giving and taking some time out for themselves.
Remember, keeping your self healthy will allow you to continue to be a caregiver. Here are some tips I’ve compiled to try to stay as balanced as possible while caring for your loved one.
- Make sure to keep your own doctor/dentist appointments. Take your own medications on a timely basis.
- Take naps when you see the opportunity.
- Try to eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids.
- Others have walked in your shoes. You may feel very isolated, but you are not alone! Consider a support group. Many caregivers are shocked to uncover that many others are going through similar circumstances. It may be healing to share some of those experiences with another.
- Learn to say YES! Accept offers of help and be specific with tasks that you need help with.
- Communication is key… especially with health care personnel. Write notes during doctor appointments and refer back to them later if needed. Ask questions and ask for clarifications when things are unclear. Organize medical information for future reference. Legal documents should be up to date, accessible, and stored in a safe place.
- Take time out breaks when you can – care giving is physically and emotionally taxing. Is there a volunteer or someone to relieve you periodically?
- Give yourself permission to laugh and smile. Humor is at times, the best medicine…
- Get some physical exercise, take a walk, work out in the garden, walk your dog.
- Don’t feel guilty about taking some time out for yourself. This will renew your spirit and give you more energy to care for your loved one.
- Take time for some solitude. Pray, meditate, read a book, keep a journal.
- Listen to music, share a meal with a friend.
- Be on the lookout for signs of depression and treat it if necessary. (see your physician)
- Know just how great of a job you are doing and what a gift it is to the patient you are caring for.
- Be kind to yourself and give yourself a big pat on the back…
Remember that you are doing one of the most important and loving jobs in the world.
Marygrace Lomboy, CRNP