Deborah's Tips On Caregiving
I recently took a trip to D.C. to visit friends and tour the new African American History Museum. On the short flight, when the flight attendant began her in-flight safety check, and she instructed everyone, in the event of an accident, to put his or her oxygen mask on first, I thought of my mother. As a caregiver, you MUST care for yourself first otherwise you’ll be of no use to those that need you most.
For three years, she has been her husband’s primary caregiver. She’s stood sentry as he’s battled a series of alignments, surgeries, infections, and sadly, far too many setbacks. My mother is incredibly savvy and has mastered the art of caregiving. Unfortunately, not everyone is up to the task. Caregiving takes a tremendous toll on the caregiver. As such, they often suffer from the following conditions:
- Poor eating habits.
- Lack of sleep.
- Missing your own doctor’s appointments.
- Ignoring your own ailments due to lack of time.
- Increased stress, anxiety, anger and guilt.
- Lack of consistent exercise.
- Excessive use of alcohol or other drugs as a coping mechanism.
If you suffer from any of the above, you might be suffering from a debilitating disorder called “caregiver syndrome.” In fact, according to the American Academy of Geriatric Psychiatrists one in four American families cares for someone over the age of 50. And some studies show that many caregivers, not only suffer from the abovementioned condition, but roughly 30% of caregivers die before those they’re caring for. So how can one avoid “caregivers syndrome?” Well, my mother, Deborah Turner, now an expert on the subject- and my co-blogger- shares her tips on how to be a successful and healthy caregiver.
Here’s her story:
It’s 4:32 in the morning and the phone rings. I am needed immediately in ER. I don’t panic. I am prepared. I haven’t always been this organized. After years of caring for my ill husband, who has been in a nursing home for three years, I have learned how to make this journey as stress free as possible. Here are the steps that have helped me most, steps that I hope will help you as you embark on this difficult but necessary journey.
- Proper planning prevents poor performance. Invest in a roller bag – it’s been invaluable. Keep it filled with frozen bottled water, healthy snacks and your own medication for one day. The roller bag is even useful to transport clean and dirty laundry.
- Keep plenty of gas in your car and keep your car serviced so that you always have reliable transportation. Invest in a phone car charger.
- Place important documents that you may need in a folder – copies of prescriptions, relevant medical forms and various forms of identification. Also, consider keeping a journal with procedures and their corresponding dates, in addition to doctor phone numbers.
- Pack facial spray to keep you feeling refreshed in the dry hospital air and a travel toothbrush and toothpaste for unexpected overnight stays.
- Learn to delegate. Accept help from loved ones. Avoid trying to do it all. No one can do everything and be everywhere. Further, everyone has a special skill and, in times of crisis, you’d be surprised how many people want to feel useful. Let them.
- Get to know your local florist. Make a deal so that you can have flowers delivered every two weeks to your loved one. They often have leftover flowers and they would love to deliver them rather than throw them away. Negotiate a deal that suits your budget. Your loved one will appreciate having fresh flowers in his or her room.
- If you’re budget allows, hire a housekeeper, if only for the most time-consuming chores. Save your energy for your loved ones.
- Take the time to learn what social services are available to you. My husband is a United States veteran and there are many services specifically tailored for him (home healthcare, home construction, and transportation to and from the hospital to name a few). It takes time but it’s worth the effort.
- Make exercise a priority. You made your loved one a priority now make yourself a priority. This way you both win. Meditate. Pray. And eat right.
- Plan your day the night before. Always include something nice for you to do, see, or hear. Even if it’s only for an hour or two. Consider routine manicures or massages.
- Always get a good night’s sleep. That means no sweets after 6pm. Read inspiration literature before bed. Go to bed on a positive note. Take warm baths. Indulge in your well-being.
I hope these tips will keep you positive, healthy and focused. Caring for a loved one doesn’t have to be a taxing journey–DT.
Please share your own tips and stories in the comments below.
A recovering TV producer, I'm working fastidiously--yet unsuccessfully--on my addiction to politics. I'm a hopeless Miles Davis enthusiast, who enjoys gallery-hopping and Nutella cupcakes. I owe my green eyes and gumbo-cooking talent to my Creole genes. And when I'm not blogging all things chic, me and my fur baby Lola Bean Pod are living it up in Atlanta.