December 9, 2015

How To Care for Caregivers

Photo courtesy Andy Martello
As many of you readers may know, I've been helping Mom deal with her health issues. Last week, she received a pacemaker, meaning that she's begun the process towards joining the Borg Collective.

I kid, but I know many of my friends and colleagues often say, "Hey, Gordon, let us know how we can help." So consider this some preliminary guidelines for not just my friends...but also anyone who knows someone taking care of an ailing relative.

Let's be clear - sometimes, being an adult caretaker is like spinning plates. Attempting to balance current life issues with sudden health crises can make us very busy...and often can be very draining. We also have people who consider a quick Google search to be the equivalent of a medical degree. Ironically, people who are caring for others realize that time is a very limited commodity. We want to spend our time with loved ones....but also realize we need time for ourselves.

So one thing I would suggest - please respect our limited time. If we bail on an outing, or need to take time away from social's not that we're flaky. It's because we sometimes have more opportunities for things to "pop up" on our schedule than others. Also, let's be honest - some of us owe many of you phone calls and e-mails. You can wait until we get around to it, but the better suggestion...

...reach out to us. Get us out of the house and involved. Take us out for coffee/meals/fun stuff/whatever.

Caregiving can feel very isolating, with our focus solely on getting through the most immediate crisis. Anything you can do to help us feel connected with others is always welcome; anything that helps us feel supported (other than verbal reassurances) is also welcome.

And in return - yes, we'll engage in appropriate self-care strategies. We'll eat right, get exercise, and more importantly - say "no" when appropriate.

That's right - sometimes, we have to set boundaries with ourselves and our families. It means that sometimes, we'll act in our own interest, believing that "no" is a complete sentence. Will we feel guilty? Sure, but at the very least, we'll be moving forward.

So being a caregiver is a challenge, but with a little help, you can make the process easier. Just please understand if we choose to take a day off to enjoy Law & Order reruns on Ion Television.

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