Caregiving can be immensely rewarding, with the knowledge that each day you are helping someone to have a richer, fuller, more pleasant life. It can also be immensely challenging, however, taking up time and emotional energy.
It’s not easy to see a loved one struggling with day to day tasks, or facing difficult medical issues. However, there are several steps you can take to be a better caretaker, and to see your role in a more positive light.
Cut yourself some slack. It’s easy to feel the pressure to do everything and take on too much. After all, you are helping to care for someone you care about and who is an integral part of your family. It can be hard to make tough calls, like when to contemplate assisted living, or to predict how you’ll react to unexpected events.
Don’t demand perfection of yourself, but instead give yourself permission to enjoy patience and grace as you navigate the ups and downs of being a caregiver.
Talk through it now. Go ahead and talk to your siblings, spouse, and any other very important persons who need to have a say in your loved one’s care. Have the difficult conversations now about how you will handle medical emergencies and legal matters. Plan ahead for who will have power of attorney, how to handle any assets that would go into probate, and how siblings who live far away and are not in a caretaking role will provide support, whether emotionally, financially, or otherwise.
By tackling these sometimes thorny issues up front, you can know ahead of time what to do in any given situation, and make decisions while on solid mental and emotional footing.
Plan ahead. How would you take on any other big project at work or at home? Strategize, make a list, and figure out what the best way to tackle the task at hand. Caretaking is no different. Make sure everything will run smoothly by putting items on your calendar ahead of time, making a medication schedule (if applicable), organize delivery of any regularly used supplies like oxygen or diabetes testing strip and lancets. The more you can automate and pre-plan, the simpler life will be!
Communicate clearly. Be proactive and upfront when talking with the many professionals involved in your loved one’s care. Physicians, physical therapists, in-home aids, insurance contacts, medical specialists, and more all need to be coordinated. Touch base with each of them regularly, and take plenty of notes. The more you know, the quicker and easier decision making can be, and the easier it will be to juggle medical appointments, prescription schedules, and more.
By jumping in and not letting yourself get overwhelmed, you can keep your caregiving experience positive and effective. As with any other big project, a little organization can go a long way to reducing stress and making any task manageable.