You love your family and you are good at your job. This does not mean, however, you will make a good caregiver for a loved one. Being an accomplished professional, expert or an akamai homemaker does not prepare you for the sudden responsibility of a full time caregiver.
For instance, I love my father-in-law and I am a very good lawyer, but when he had a stroke, I and my family were overwhelmed and ill-prepared for the task suddenly upon us: being a caregiver for a disabled person. When my wife was pregnant, on the other hand, we had nine months to prepare for handling another human being who was going to be dependent on us for everything. My father-in-law’s stroke happened in a moment.
My father-in-law was lucky, however, in that his care could be shared among our entire ohana. This was not the case for Dwayne Smith (not his real name). After suffering a massive heart attack, Dwayne’s adult son Peter assumed the role of caregiver. For three years, Peter took good care of his father. One day, however, Dwayne soiled his bedding; Peter began yelling at his dad and punching him. When the assault stopped, Dwayne was covered with bruises and blinded in his right eye. He was taken to the hospital and died a month later.
An estimated 65 million people nationwide serve as “informal caregivers”— usually relatives who become caregivers because of financial necessity. Unfortunately, because of caregiver stress, some of these well-meaning volunteers will make decisions or take actions they not only will regret, but also will result in harming a loved one.
If you suddenly find yourself in the position of a caregiver, you can take steps to reduce the stress of caring for a dependant loved one:
- Don’t try and do it alone: a team approach will prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed with all the tasks that need to be done. Will you pick up the pills from Longs? How about dropping off a lunch or dinner on Tuesday? Can we please add our Costco list to yours? A simple question shares responsibilities, no matter how small, and makes the job much more manageable.
- Organize Information: knowing where the identification card, insurance card and list of medication are located will greatly help at the next doctor’s visit.
- Take Care of Yourself:
- Eat regular and nutritious meals
- Take a Break and do something for yourself
- Express yourself: call your buddy or join a caregiver’s support group — talk about the conflicting emotions of being a caregiver for a family member. You are not alone.Work with the person you are caring for: doing everything for your “patient” may be quicker, but in the long run, the dependency you are creating will wear you down.