Caregivers & Caregiving
“There are four kinds of people in this world – those who are currently caregivers, those who have been caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” -Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady of the United States.
Caregiving was once known simply as parenting, being a good son, daughter, sibling, friend or spouse. But with a diagnosis of cancer or some other life threatening disease the ordinary becomes extraordinary; it becomes a journey that you never imagined for yourself – or your loved one.
Understanding your role
Much is asked of a caregiver and in order to provide the best care that you possible can for your loved one, you must embrace your new role. You will become an essential part of the team that includes physicians, nurses, specialists and other medical/healthcare professionals; all working to provide the best treatment and quality of life for your loved one, your family and yourself. As a team member you will have the right to access all information regarding your loved ones’ medical condition and to be involved in the decision making. You must not shy away from asking questions or asking for help.
Here are some basic suggestions to consider that will help you establish a stable foundation on which to build your caregiving. Most of these ideas will be discussed in further detail throughout the website, along with links to other organizations and resources that can provide additional information and guidance.
- Do not make impulsive decisions. Take the time to speak with your loved one, a social worker, psychologist, clergy or close friend to help you prioritize and come to terms with your new role.
- Educate yourself. Physicians and nurses will help you understand the basics regarding your loved one’s medical condition and immediate/future treatment protocols. But you may also need to become knowledgeable about insurance, health care directives and financial matters.
- Consult others. You can’t do this alone. If your spouse is ill, involve your adult children; with an ill parent, talk to your siblings or other close family members and friends.
- Continue your own routine for as long as possible.
- Take care of your own health. Eat right and exercise. Take 15 minutes each day to do something just for you. Read a book, meditate, take a walk or work in the garden – anything that will allow you those few minutes completely removed from your caregiving duties.
- Be prepared for change and transitions. Eventually, you may need outside help such as home healthcare professionals. A drastic change in your loved one’s condition might require a move to an assisted living, skilled or long-term care facility. Or you may have to face the end of caregiving.