I have been fighting multiple life threatening health issues for the past 17 years and my wife Laura has the toughest job. That’s right. You see, Laura has been a Caregiver for 17 of our almost 20 years of marriage. She has definitely lived out the “In Sickness and Health” vow. A lot of people like to call me a Rockstar, but Laura is the real Rockstar in this crazy beautiful journey.
As a patient, I know what I need to do. I have my checklist of things to do each day. The caregiver does not have a checklist. They do not have a treatment plan. Most of the time the caregiver is trying to figure things out on the fly. Hoping what they say and do is correct. Also, the caregiver tends to get lost along the way. Everyone is always asking about the patient, but we need to make sure we never forget to check in on the caregiver. How can we do that? Here is a few things Laura and I have learned over the years.
Take Time to Laugh. I know it sounds simple, but humor has helped Laura and I deal with some of the toughest moments we have faced in this crazy beautiful journey. Plus one of my wedding vows was I would make her laugh everyday.
Have Your Own Team. I often talk about the great team I have around me. The caregiver also needs to have a great team around them. Over the years, Laura has been blessed with a wonderful team of people to help her walk this journey. Do not do it alone.
Take Time for Yourself. The caregiver must take time for themselves during the journey. That could mean taking a walk by yourself or taking a trip. During our journey, I have always encouraged Laura to get away with friends and not become consumed with taking care of me. This is where The Team comes into play. When Laura is away getting recharged, our team steps up to take care of me. Thank goodness I am still able to do a lot for myself, but it’s nice to have that team available to help.
Let People Help. A lot of times when people are dealing with the storms of life, they try and do everything by themselves. Laura tried to do everything herself at the beginning of our journey. That was not healthy or fair to her. People truly want to help, we just have to ask. Let me give you an example. I am no longer able to drive. That can be tough when you have multiple doctors appointments a week. Laura used to take me to my appointments/treatments and then pick me up afterwards. That meant she had to work around her work schedule. A friend found out about this and decided to set up rides for me. Guess what? People actually fight over (in a nice way), who gets to take me to and from my appointments. This has taken so much pressure off of Laura. Plus I get to hang out with some amazing people.
Rest. Taking care of someone can be overwhelming. Can I get an Amen from all the caregivers out there? So it is important to get some rest. In the early days of my hospital stays, Laura would stay with me all day. Not leaving the hospital until late at night. If anyone has spent any time in the hospital, you know how exhausting that can be. Today, I make sure Laura leaves the hospital early and comes in later in the morning or afternoon. That gives her time to get the proper rest.
Stop Comparing Yourself. Your journey as a caregiver is unique. Please do not compare your caregiving skills with someone else. Your doing a great job!
Take Time to Eat Properly. A lot of times the caregiver is running from one appointment to another. It is easy to stop at a drive-thru and get to the next appointment or hospital visit. Sometimes a caregiver gets so busy, they forget to eat. Please take the time to sit down and have a nice meal. That is part of taking care of yourself.
Don’t Forget Your Health Needs. It is so easy for the caregiver to forget about their own health needs. I am constantly checking with Laura about her health needs. That is also where Team can help. Make sure the caregivers in your life is taking care of their physical, mental and emotional health needs.
Community Resources. There are so many resources out there for caregivers. Do not be afraid to check them out. They can make this journey so much easier.
Write Things Down. As a caregiver, you are being bombarded with a lot of information. That can be overwhelming. Over the years, Laura has created a medical sheet for me. It has all my vital information on it. It includes my list of medications, the names and phone numbers of my doctors, a list of my past procedures, all my implants and the medications I am allergic to. This sheet has been a blessing. So many of our medical team have mentioned how helpful it is for them, especially during an Emergency Room visit. Laura has my information saved on her computer, so she can easily update it.
Know Your Limitations. I know most caregivers are superheroes, but know your limitations. You do not have to do everything on your own. Be willing to except help. People genuinely want to help. Asking for help does not make you a failure. It makes you human,
Learn to Say No. A caregiver takes on many roles. That can be exhausting. So I want to encourage all caregivers out there, it is okay to say No. Being able to say no can be so freeing. It frees you up to say Yes to the really important things in life.
These are just a few lessons Laura and I have learned during our crazy beautiful journey. In our book, “The Blessed Overcomer”, Laura shares about her journey as a caregiver. I am so thankful she shared her part of our story. We have received some amazing feedback from other caregivers. Caregivers are heroes, but they are still human. Please check in on the caregivers in your life. Do not allow them to walk their crazy beautiful journey alone. ~OC