By Pamela D. Wilson, CSA, MS, BS/BA, CG
We often think of caregivers as individuals providing direct care to another person. Yet there are many caregivers with careers that support us in our daily life – which we do not readily recognize as caregivers. In many cases, caregivers are thrown into this role unexpectedly. At times the caregiving role is challenging and undesirable. Many accept this challenge because of love and duty. What if it’s possible to find humor, relief and a sense of well being by adapting the unanticipated role of caregiving through a variety of different supportive services? The following are 10 tips to finding humor, relief and support in caregiving.
- Healthy humor – Having down to earth fun can create significant moments of laughter and joy. Stop to smell the roses, sit on a park bench and watch little children tumble and play, watch dogs fetch balls and Frisbees, put a bird feeder on your back porch and make new friends. It really is the simple things in life — that most of us take for granted — that can offer simple pleasures, joy and smiles.
- Remember and research – Think back to funny times with your loved one. Work toward creating more of those moments by researching creative ideas, jokes and activities you and your love ones can do together. Set a weekly movie night where you rent or watch a funny movie and enjoy popcorn or other treats. In our household when I was young, Saturday Night Creature Feature was the time when we’d stay up late, snack together and watch scary movies.
- Seek support from friends and family – Sometimes just a phone call to know that someone is thinking of you makes the day. Ask friends and family to make an occasional phone call or a once a month shopping trip. The idea is not to impose but to see who might be able to help on a regular, yet occasional basis. It’s important to maintain connections. This is a simple and easy way to make sure you don’t lose touch with friends. Even more importantly – offer them something in return for their help so the relationship isn’t one of need. Bake cookies; lend them a book or a funny movie to bring light into their lives in return for the assistance and support they provide.
- Share the responsibility – It is important for the caregiver and the person needing care to realize that this relationship bears responsibility. One person cannot and should not bear the entire weight of the relationship. If you are the person needing care, participate in helping yourself, show appreciation, and make caring for you a pleasure not a burden. If you are the caregiver be pleasant and patient with your loved one. Caring is a two way street. You get back what you give.
- Choose your role – If the situation that involves family members, allow each individual to agree which role they will accept and what they are able and willing to do. Ask each person interested in helping in ways they enjoy. Ask what their day to day life looks like and what tasks would be easy for them to help with; the situation will be more successful if those involved have a choice about how they’ll help rather than being told what they will do.
- Organize a routine – Make a list of daily needs for yourself and your loved one. Providing yourself with a visual tool of daily, weekly, monthly needs will help you discover challenging areas where assistance may be needed. It also serves as a tool to see where you might not be as effective as needed, and where another solution might be just be the answer.
- Primary contact – If possible, divide up the work between family members. If not and you are the main responsible party for everything then it is time to look at what projects can be “hired out”. Too many times caregivers feel they have to do everything. This results in burnout. The ability to delegate and “hire out” is necessary in supporting your ability to care for your loved one.
- One time wonders – Some individuals may only be able to help once. Make sure you have a list available when the moment comes and someone says “how can I help you”. Refer to your organized list, provide the volunteering individual with a task and relish in the idea that this is one less thing remaining on your list.
- Be present with your feelings – Acknowledge that caregiving is a job; sometimes extremely difficult, many times without a pat on the back or acknowledgement that what you’re doing is valuable. Take time for yourself; know that you are doing the best you can. Be present with your emotions.
- You’re in charge of your life – Never forget this is your life. The choices you make on a daily basis result in life satisfaction. Feeling helpless or blaming others is not productive. If you need support – find it. If you’re not the best caregiver for your loved one — admit it. Seek support and help.
It is rare that we prepare for a caregiving role for our parents, spouse or loved one. Often it is a role we fail to think about until caregiving arrives on our doorstep. The reality is that as all of us age. Dementia, diabetes, heart disease and other common chronic progressive illnesses happen. In preparation for life altering events, such as an unanticipated caregiving role consider how you want to respond. If you do not know how to approach the subject or have been caught off guard by your new role as a caregiver and wish guidance on how to navigate these waters in a way which benefits you and your loved one join the forum on The Caring Generation, explore our free library or items in our store.
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