Thursday, October 4, 2012

Advice For Care Givers ...

The following advice that I am sharing comes from my own personal experience with the caretakers who have been there for me along this journey. To me, they are known as my A-Team (Angel Team). Without them, I wouldn't be here today. You will learn more about them in my book, but I'd like to share a few tried and true tips that may help you with the care of your loved one. I've been on both sides of the caregiving spectrum, not only as a caregiver, but as a patient. Here are the Do's & Don'ts as I see it:

CAREGIVER DO'S: * Whether you are a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker, try to maintain the same kind of relationship you've had with your loved one. The organization that I worked for was so thoughtful and caring and my co-workers called each day to see how I was doing. They were THE BEST! I worked from home but hearing their voices made me still feel connected to them. * Offer your assistance no matter how little you think it may be. Make a daily phone call to check in on them. Send a card, letter or email. My best friend, Kathleen, though four hours away, mailed a card to me every other day. She'd mail care packages of herbal teas, motivational material to read, etc. It was her way of keeping us closer and I looked forward to it. Every day, my friend Betty would call me and ask, "What can I do for you today?" A simple question that meant so much to me. Most days I'd thank her and, other days, I'd let her help me with whatever I needed. My other friends would call when they got home from work. Having cancer can make you feel isolated and a simple phone call can be all it takes to make your loved one feel special. * Volunteer to take them to their doctor appointments or other important meetings. My dear friend, Judith went with me to two such appointments and was so helpful in asking questions that I had forgotten to ask. When struggling to stay alive, as well as dealing with medical treatments, a person's brain might be a little foggy. Offer to be their health advocate if need be. * Cook a healthy meal for them or their family. Or, take them out to eat. My friends, Betty, Lidia, Debbie would kidnap me and we'd spend an afternoon or evening together for a meal or go shopping. It felt good to get outside. * Offer to walk their dog or clean out their cat's litter box. * Provide some humor therapy if they are up to it. Laughter IS the best medicine! Go to the movies or rent one. Go to a comedy club. Or, do what my friend, Linda Lou and I did. She was dealing with her own major health issues at the same time I was. We'd talk on the phone everyday and share stories of our klutzy mis-doings, funny situations that happened concerning our care and it helped us both get through such a difficult time. Due to our chronic neuropathy, we'd laugh about tripping and falling on our asses, at our own expense - always joking that it was another story to add to "our book!" We turned our everyday doldrums into a virtual sitcom and it got us through to the next day! * Help run errands. My friend Lidia's husband, Chester helped me move all of my belongings into a storage unit in preparation for my move. He also became my chauffeur when I fell and dislocated my right elbow and broke my arm in two places. Since I drive a stick-shift, he drove me to my local oncologist's office as well as to my other doctor in Miami. I couldn't have done it without him. * Sit and talk. When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, your first instinct may be to avoid them because you simply do not know how to deal with the situation. That may be an internal mechanism to protect "yourself" from YOUR fears and emotions. Though hard. please try to push forward to be there for them. Take their hands in yours. Look them in the eyes. Tell them your true feelings ... I'm so angry this happened to you! This is not fair! You don't deserve this! It's okay to admit your raw emotions. Chances are, they may be experiencing those same exact feelings. To feel just the touch of a hand or a warm hug is like winning the lottery. It entwines two souls together and makes things better! * Music soothes the savage beast, it also can help to soothe someone who is in pain. If you (or someone you know) is musically inclined, maybe you can offer some of your time to entertain your loved one. Take them to a concert or musical. Turn on some quiet, relaxing music for them to listen to while they rest. * Be one with nature. Sit by the water. Take a walk. Get out and smell the fresh air. Sit in the sun, or by moonlight. Doing this made me feel grounded. * Offer to pray for them. I had so many prayer warriors on my side from all religions. Knowing that others were out there sending out their prayers and well wishes made me feel loved.
CAREGIVER DONT'S: * Don't abandon them in their time of need. They are just as afraid as you are. Now is the time that you are needed the most. * In the same token, don't try to force yourself on them. Allow them to maintain as much independence as possible. It will empower them and make them feel in control of their life despite their diagnosis. * Don't be a Debbie Downer. Fighting for your life is bad enough. Then add more doom and gloom into the mix and you've got one depressed friend who would rather you be there to support and motivate him / her than to bring them down even more. * Try to remain calm. Being a caregiver is a stressful job. You are a constant witness to your loved one's struggle. You feel helpless. You may have to deal with someones crabbiness or depression. Your loved one may say things out of pain or frustration and they are not meant to hurt you intentionally. No one teaches a caregiver or a patient how to behave. * Try not to force them to eat what others in the same household may be having. Chemo, radiation and other cancer treatments can wreak havoc on a person's appetite. It is important to eat, but a cup of soup or a piece of toast may have to suffice until their appetite returns. Check with their doctor if you are truly concerned about their nutritional habits. * Take care of YOU!!! When you are focused on your loved one 24 / 7, that leaves little or no time for you. Allow a friend or neighbor to provide you with a break. Even if it means only an hour or two a day. At least it will get you out of the house and give you some time to re-group. Call Hospice http://www.hospicefoundation.org/ to see if your loved one qualifies for assistance. I hope these tips will provide you with some ideas on how to be a caregiver. It's a big job and it can be rewarding for you as well as the patient. If you have any other words of advice, or tried and true tips that I may have omitted, please leave a comment below. Thanking all of you caregivers in advance ... the love is there ...

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