Panic is typically the first reaction. “I can’t be sick – I’m a caregiver! What do I do now?” The mere thought is gut-wrenching. Breathe.
This reality is common and it warrants consideration. Whether you’re living through it presently or you’re watching others and wondering what you’d do if it happened to you, take stock. Make a plan. Surgery means a minimum of six weeks of recuperation, chemo can be indeterminate, a mild cognitive impairment diagnosis or worse, or chronic condition diagnosis requires a long-term vs. short-term plan. When you’re ill or experiencing a set-back, stress becomes one of your worst enemies. Mitigate it. Breathe. Get proactive.
Find a trusted confidant and talk it out. Fear, denial – these are normal responses. The processing requires you to be vulnerable with this person – lay it out on the line. That will be necessary for this journey. Reveal your worst nightmare so you can release it. Our worst case scenarios go straight from our head to that heavy ‘sock-in-the-gut’ reaction typically leading to nausea, exhaustion, overwhelm. Speaking the words without a filter helps…cry, scream, moan – whatever your thing is – let it out. Once you get through this ‘real’ moment, (time obviously varies) it’s time to get into gear and make a plan.
Keep that confidant close and consider gathering a team of supportive folks to review your plan. Outline on paper your options for help for both you and your loved one – consistent and intermittent, family, friends, volunteer or paid assistance. Be realistic. Individually list the challenges and duties needing to be fulfilled. Allow yourself flexibility. Part of this process should include a ‘rethinking’ of what’s necessary vs. what’s desired when it comes to the one that you care for. Adjust your expectations. Just because you did something a specific way doesn’t mean routine can’t be changed with a more manageable approach to care moving forward. And when adding yourself into the mix, you may not fully understand what your needs may be at the outset, including what might remain your strengths and limitations.
What’s next is key. Acknowledge the importance of YOU. Even without the significance and necessity of your caregiving responsibilities – you are important. You warrant the same love, care and respect that you’re providing. You also deserve the ability to heal without rush or anxiety, or worse – guilt. Sadly, amidst the myriad of emotions the guilt often comes into play because now you may have a financial outlay you didn’t have while you were healthy and maintaining status quo. Let it go.
Most of us prepare for the big stuff, but not the daily changes that are really what rock our world when something serious demands a change in our lives. This is not a road to be travelled alone. Find a partner, make a plan, continue to breathe and move forward. For help and ideas on this process – join our free on-line class “When the Caregiver Becomes the Patient” held Thursday, September 9th at 12:00 Noon, virtually on Zoom. RSVP to email@example.com
Elaine Poker-Yount, CDP is Director of Care Management for Visiting Angels East Valley
Reach her at 480-203-8548 or firstname.lastname@example.org