Caregiving often starts small and with things you’d rarely recognize as caregiving. A quick errand to the pharmacy. Dropping off dinner several nights a week. A phone call with a request “can you look at this?” and stopping everything to deal with “it.”
And before you know it, it’s a regular part of your weekly routine. You schedule time in your days to “help” out. Their lives become your life in ways you could never have imagined.
But as much as caregiving becomes physical activities, running here and doing this, it’s important to remember that caregiving is more of a mindset than actual activities. The best way to become a better caregiver is to make it easier to do what you do.
Remember The Person You’re Caring For
Your loved one is going through a lot of changes, both physically and mentally. What you see today is probably not how you remember them in the past. And to respond to those needs today means you have to do so with all the love and care you’ve had for the person since the beginning, while taking into account those limitations of today. Your loved one has changed; your relationship has not. They are still the same person on the inside, even if their attitudes and capabilities are different. Always keep that person in mind as you provide care.
You’re probably trying to fit your new caregiving role into the 24 hour craziness you’ve already been living. There will be times when everything you do is frustrating, when you feel like you’re burning the candle at both ends. Those are the times when you should slow down and look at what is your most important task. Say no to the least important things. Make time for the most important. And have patience as you both take this journey and uncover new things.
Trust What You Do
Everything you do is going to lead you down a new path, one you’ve never taken before. And at times, it may lead to confusion. Should you do this … or that? It can be frightening. Yet in most cases, you may not have the time to evaluate the situation for days on end. Trust in your ability to make the best decision for every moment of the day. Don’t question your ability or your choices; make them and move on.
With every new journey you take, education is the key to doing it well. Caregiving is no different. Pick up a book or two. Sign up for a class. Find a website and learn all you can. Join a support group. Get active in this new community to learn all you can. The more you learn about what is ahead, the less scary it becomes.
Watch Body Language
Caregiving always takes you into a new role. It changes your relationship significantly. With a parent, for instance, they may hold back. They’ve always provided the care, not the other way around. Instead of asking them questions, it may be necessary to read their body language too. Are they hiding things? Are they uncomfortable telling you what’s really wrong? Be sensitive to these nonverbal cues and find new ways of communicating as you take this journey together.
This new path is new to them too. And chances are they aren’t ready to lose freedom or admit to their lack of ability either. They still have a strong desire to remain independent and in control of their lives. Sometimes frustrations can flair up. Sometimes words and actions may get old, especially if you repeat yourself again and again. Always ask yourself what you would do in their shoes. If you practice non-judgment, you’ll have a better understanding of what they are going through.
Yes, you may have a dozen things on your list of to-dos. But the most important thing you can do is provide your full attention to the task at hand. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you can do it all. Ask for help along the way. With every task you do, provide the care in the best way you can. Being present brings compassion to the job, and makes everything around you run smoother. You’ll both enjoy your time more.