Caregiving can sometimes feel frustrating or disruptive as much as it can be fulfilling and rewarding. After all, it requires adjusting relationships, routines, and plans. It can be hard on both you and your loved one as you struggle with role reversal, stress, and a change in ability. Here are our top three suggestions for how to handle the transition gracefully and confidently:
Be flexible. Things are going to change, sometimes often, sometimes over many years. Your relationship with your loved one will change, as will the expectations and needs of everyone involved. You may need to travel more often if your loved one lives far away, or invite an aging parent into your home for caregiving. You may find yourself making regular trip across town to the retirement community you selected for your husband or wife. Hospital stays might disrupt your schedule. You never know when something could come up, positive or negative, from a day of unexpected mental clarity from a loved one with Alzheimers to a sudden fall from a great aunt. Prepare yourself ahead of time to roll with the punches and commit to flexibility.
Get organized. There are more ways than ever to stay on top of schedules, coordinate care providers, and keep items neatly arranged at home. Do some research, whether online, by talking to a doctor, or chatting with friends who have experience as caregivers to find solutions that will work best for you. Not only are there pills to take and shots to administer, there is also a lot of new information to keep straight. You may want to keep any interesting and helpful articles you’ve found on, say gout or dysphagia together for easy reference, or invest in a new closet system that puts home medical equipment at arm’s reach and out of sight.
Focus on the big picture. If the daily details are overwhelming you, try to step back. For example, caring for a parent with diabetes might seem like a never ending flurry of lancets and test strips, but if you take a moment to think about the situation globally you’ll notice that all that hard work is paying off with fewer hospital visits and improved overall health. It may be tough debating with your wife often about a new low-sodium regemin for her heart condition, but if you see the big picture you’ll notice that she’s been able to stop taking two of the medications you were managing. Focusing on the big picture, too, can mean the sad acknowledgement of your loved one’s mortality, but that also leaves a lot of room to celebrate the time you have together, however stressful it may be at times.
By staying positive and proactive you can transform caregiving from a chore to a vocation, and better appreciate the new relationship and lifestyle you share with someone special.