Being a caregiver isn’t something we talk about much and more importantly, we may not even truly understand what the very words mean. Typically, we think of caregivers as those who have loved ones with diseases such as, Parkinson’s, Dementia, Cancer…the ailments we all dread with advanced age.
You could be an aunt, a niece, a mother, a sister, a child, and care for an aunt, a niece, a mother, a sister, or a child. Care giving can be triggered by a major life event but it can also be so subtle we hardly recognize it. We start by taking our mom to her doctor appointments, pick up medications for her…and while it doesn’t consume our day, it takes an emotional toll we hardly recognize. You could be caring for the elderly, the ill or even the daily tasks associated with motherhood.
Most tasks of a caregiver are thrust upon us and we are forced to feel our way along duties we have little experience in. Some of the tasks may include…
- Grocery shopping
- House cleaning
- Assisting with hygiene
- Managing medications
- Communicating with health care providers
- Handling finances
- Handling crisis
- Taking care of healthcare treatments like giving injections, physical therapy, transferring from bed to chair, to shower etc.
Typically, you do it all, in addition to the other responsibilities you have, and you do it without compensation or experience.
If you find yourself in the caregiving role, here are some things to consider. Often, a caregiver can let her own mental and physical health slide or strain.
- Caregiving is emotional business. Don’t be afraid to have emotions that run the gamete from joy to depression. Own your feelings without the addition of guilt or shame.
- Be realistic about what you can do for your loved one
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help, before the point of overwhelm
- Don’t be afraid to accept help…this makes you human, not weak.
- Develop stronger coping skills- Eat, Exercise and Sleep.
- Learn the necessary skills for caring and make sure you have the right equipment
- Build a support system for yourself; friends you can count on to lean upon
- Don’t worry about the haters. There will always be someone who thinks they could do it better. Unless they are willing to jump in and help, don’t give their opinions much weight.
- Come to know your limits and tap out before it’s too much.
There is so much more we could cover. Caregiving is one of the hardest, most isolating jobs on the planet. We sacrifice so much and few truly come to understand the emotional toll until you experience it yourself. If you are a caregiver, kudos to you. If you know someone, consider ways you could help lighten their load.