Caregivers: How to Control the Things You Can
Probably one of the most challenging roles any person can play is that of a caregiver. Not only is the territory likely uncharted, but the emotions run high. The word “cancer” strikes such fear that even with our help, caregivers can work themselves into a frenzy of despair. You may feel you are being an excellent caregiver, but the more you neglect yourself, the less effective you’ll be at providing the caliber of support your loved one deserves.
While it can seem like many things are happening you cannot control, the true comfort comes from understanding the things you can control and making those work for you and your family.
Be organized – It may be the last thing on your mind, but having all the information you need in one place will make your life much easier.
- Purchase an accordion file so you have separate sections to keep important things like test results and insurance authorizations.
- Organize all medical contact numbers and office addresses on one sheet (or in a file on your phone) to save you from scrambling for who to call for what and where to go for treatments and follow-up appointments. Program every number you need on your phone as well.
- To save yourself time and minimize stress, keep a copy of a comprehensive medical form that you filled out with your loved one’s surgical history, family history, and the all-important list of medicines. You will likely find yourself filling out the same types of paperwork over and over or being asked those details by a variety of doctors, so having those key pieces of information will save you from looking for it every time you need it.
Get sleep – The restorative power of sleep is well documented, and its deprivation will sneak up on you quickly. Without enough you will be less alert and more stressed. It will run down your immune system and you’ll more easily succumb to colds and flu; illnesses for which you have no time. Consult with your own doctor if you really feel you need a sleep aid, but embracing activities like yoga and deep breathing exercises and staying away from caffeine and alcohol and TV before retiring will help you get the restful sleep you require.
Ask for help – Hopefully there are people in your life who genuinely want to lend their assistance. Let them! If someone tells you to call them if you need anything, they likely mean it. You literally can’t do everything…so allow a neighbor to do some grocery shopping or drop your car off for service or watch your child for an afternoon. It is not a sign of weakness, no one is keeping score. If you are running in too many directions you will not have the capacity you need for what’s important.
When someone you love is sick, your time may not be your own and you may feel thrust into a world for which you are unprepared. Control the things you can and you’ll be a better caregiver.