Life is full of surprises and shocks. There are times when it goes on smoothly and other times during which the most unexpected things happen and our life takes a U turn for the worse. This might be our loved one’s sudden death, an inevitable accident or terminal illness that puts us in a responsible situation whether we like it or not. Not all of us are trained nurses and none of us are prepared to be caregivers-its something that’s forced onto us suddenly without our permission. Such scenarios are common when our loved one meets with an accident and enters coma state, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or when we give birth to a mentally retarded child. Read more about Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia and how it affects the quality of life of the patient by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com. It might be our very own parents or children that we care for but taking care of someone 24*7 disturbs us emotionally too. On some days we feel complete and fulfilled but there are some other days when we are full of guilt, anger and resentment as it takes aplenty time, physical and emotional energy. There are many times during which we feel overwhelmed with responsibilities involving your home and work besides caretaking obligations, feel love and resentment simultaneously and have your feelings worked up all of which can let you down in no time unless you pay attention to what’s going on around you and to you.
Caregiving is not a duty but something of a chore that needs compassion and care. You become a better caregiver by showing love and making your loved one’s day a little better and happier everyday finally being able to ‘make their day’ with a heartwarming smile, baking their favorite muffin or putting on their favorite purple-colored nail paint. Every person takes care in a different way, each have a different relationship with the loved one and emotions come and go at the rarest of the unexpected times for different people. Amongst all the challenges it is your duty to be a better caretaker but it is also crucial that you don’t lose yourself and your identity in this process. Given below are few tips that can help you sail through the process in a better way making it easier for you, on your life and also on the life of your loved one.
Never Say ‘No’ to Any Help that Comes your Way: It is during the initial stages of caregiving that many of your family members and friends would love to play a part in your role and quite often you are faced with the question of “Can I be of help in any way?” Though you might be overwhelmed with your new role it is wise to accept any help offered and take some time off to tend to your needs.
Delegate Work: It is common to do all the work by yourself but this might tire you in course of time. Hence, find out one or few tasks that consumes most of your time or rips you off the energy and delegate it to some one else. It might be giving a bath, taking the person for some fresh air outdoors or feeding. This way, you are saving money by choosing to delegate only a part of your job to someone rather than shifting the whole responsibility.
Discuss rather than Decide Upon Yourself What Your Loved One Wants: It works out better when you sort out wishes and identify your loved one’s goals rather than forcing them with commands. You can make a list of the things he/she likes such as playing a game of cards, drinking tea in the garden or calling over some friends for dinner. Analyze what are the things that makes the person’s life interesting and get down to accomplishing them by yourself or with the help of someone else too.
Decide Upon Medical Tests & Procedures: Many elderly people wish to lead a good quality life being happy, staying peaceful and healthy as much as possible rather than eating more medicines, suffering pain and relying on physicians. If there is any medical procedure proposed ask and probe on how this procedure will improve the life of your loved one. If there are minimal chances or no chances please don’t give a green signal for the procedure to be performed on the individual.
Don’t Forget yourself in the Process of Caregiving: The role of the caregiver could have been forced upon you and it could even consume most of your time changing your life completely. Don’t forget that you are an individual with opinions and likes of your own in the process of caregiving. Take time off to attend to your needs and get away which is good for you as well as your loved one. It could be a phone call to your friend, some hobby that you enjoy doing or a long walk that helps you ease off stress and clear the mind. Don’t forget to stay active, stay connected and relax yourself. Enjoy the small joys and happiness that happen in this process. After all, you are caring for your mom or dad with whom you have had a great relationship in the past. Though your present relationship could have changed you are still a close-knit family.
Talk it Out: There could be some days during which you feel like shouting or just venting your anger. Don’t suppress these feelings but simply talk to someone who cares for you-it might be a friend or a family member. Join support groups that help you talk through your experience and motivate you with tips and tricks.
Listen to what your loved one has to say, make eye contact, give them a kiss on their forehead, hug them tightly, give them a surprise once a while (maybe cook your mom’s favorite dish or get your dad’s favorite sport star’s poster) and spend time doing things that both of enjoy together-these are the ones that become precious memories forever in the later run.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.