Tips for Caregivers (Part One)

The role of a caregiver in any long-term disability situation is loaded with challenge– intellectual, physical, emotional and sometimes financial. Few are fully prepared to understand the demands and we all struggle to satisfy them. In this three part series each week, Susan will share practical tips for caregivers to consider as you serve your loved ones will be.

Assemble your personal care team.
Create and nurture a support network of friends who know you, understand the situation, and can provide outlets for your concerns. Remember these people love you and want to help. Keep them informed. Don’t be afraid to share your crazy emotions. By not being in the middle of the storm, they may have different ways of looking at your situation that can relieve pressure and provide comfort.

We caregivers are notorious for answering the “How are you doing?” question with a pat, “I’m fine.” While this is a polite response, no one believes it. Pause for a moment to gather your thoughts. Sharing something as simple as, “I’m really concerned about Mom’s recent sadness,” provides a chance for someone to listen and for you to talk through what’s troubling you.

Keep family communication lines open.
Family members who are not directly involved in caretaking may have strong feelings about what is being done. These feelings can come out as forceful opinions or judgment of your efforts. Recognize that these feelings are normal during times of high stress. Try not to attach your own feelings of worth or adequacy to such exchanges. Instead, find a way to communicate necessary information that puts some time and space between direct conversations.

Invite questions within carefully prescribed boundaries. No phone calls past 8pm, or a limit of 30 minutes per conversation, are examples. When you set and maintain these boundaries, you help everyone find a cadence to exchange information and emotion along with time to reflect and come to terms with the situation. Everyone has a different capacity and pace. Respecting these differences takes patience and a commitment to honor your needs as much as you honor theirs.

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