You’re strolling through life without a care in the world, or at least not more than you usually have when BOO! Something jumps out and terrifies you! Is it a ghost? No, it’s a situation that suddenly thrusts you into the role of a caregiver. It might be a phone calling letting you know a parent is in the hospital, an accident, or a diagnosis that someone receives, but the end result is the same in all the cases: you are now a caregiver. Fairly common reactions are terror, fear, confusion and uncertainty. What’s scary about caregiving and what can you do about it?
Caregiving is scary because it is sudden. It usually comes out of nowhere and is completely unexpected. If you have an older parent, even if they are not in a position where they need help, it would be wise to plan ahead for what you will do when the time comes that they need assistance or cannot live alone. Think about who is nearby that may be able to help them. Have discussions with them about whether they are interested in moving to a facility where they can age in place. Ask them what their thoughts are about the future and if they have made any plans.
When you find yourself in a caregiving situation there is so much that is unknown. There can be an entirely new vocabulary with acronyms and words that are foreign to you. Contact the related organization or association such as the American Cancer Society or Alzheimer’s Association for help in understanding what is being said to you. Check their websites, ask them for referrals and if there is anything they can send you. Be careful about doing too much research on the internet because there is nothing like a new diagnosis and Google to scare the pants off of you!
A lot of responsibility comes with caregiving. Depending on the level of care you are giving, you will be accompanying the person to doctor appointments which you made for them, picking up prescriptions, trying to understand the prescriptions and making sure they are taken properly with no side effects, plus making sure everything is being done to help the person improve, stay stable, get the help they need and live as comfortable a life as possible. A support group may be helpful in this situation. You can find some which you can attend on the internet, and through local hospitals and organizations like those mentioned above. Call the facilitator in advance and explain your situation to see if you will be a good fit for the group. If you are a new caregiver for a person with cancer, for example, you would not want to attend a group for cancer caregivers where the people they are caring for are losing their battle.
A loss of freedom can come with caregiving because you need to spend time caring for someone else, giving you less time to do what you did in the past. Be sure to stay in contact with friends. When people ask if they can do any thing to help, give them a few suggestions. Ask people to call and check up on you and drag you out for coffee or to sit with your caree so you can get out on your own.
For some people, meeting new people is very hard. In this situation, you already have something in common with the people you will meet in the support groups. They understand your situation as they are in it as well and have been in the same spot as you. Nothing breaks barriers like a smile.
When you become a caregiver there is an incredible amount of information to manage. Ask others how they do it and find a system that works for you. A system that works for you is one that you’ll use. Just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean you’ll use it. Take a notebook to every doctor’s appointment. Use a calendar, printed or on an electronic device. Have checklists. Keep a journal of the daily symptoms or reactions. Make a chart with all the information about the prescriptions including the prescription number, who prescribed the medication, why it was prescribed and how often it is to be taken. While you are developing your system, get a file folder or large envelope where you can put all the printed information you receive.
Yes, caregiving is scary, but with support from others, you will be able to manage it successfully.
Image credit: Katherine Webb
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