Five Steps to Help You in Your Difficult, but Loving Journey as a Caregiver

I never imagined that a difficult life experience would be presented by surprise.  I was enjoying a workout by the ocean soon to be Thanksgiving holiday.  My mom had anemia health challenges that year, but nothing to worry about as it was something to be controlled.  I was relieved, but still concerned.  I continue running my pre-holiday errands bumping into a couple friends with jovial exchanges.  That night my parents were out to dinner and my dad calls that my mom had to be rushed to the ER for severe abdominal pain.  That fateful night would change the course of my life.  I was at the hospital for two weeks as she was diagnosed with a rare cancer. 

I cried every night, depressed, fearful, agonizing on what a major undertaking was given to me.  I would not abandon her and would be with her every day, as the poor prognosis was given right away.  I feared loss in the next few months according to the research and discussions with doctors.  I was locked away in another world in which I had no experience and accepted my purpose and passion as her caregiver.

It’s terrifying and anxiety provoking as the monthly doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, and symptom management unfolded.  This was too powerful and beyond my strength as I did everything to give her the best quality of life.

You probably remember the day of the diagnosis and the day you committed to your loved one's care every step of the way. You had courage not to turn away or leave the big responsibility with someone else.

You will have various challenges as a caregiver, but you are doing this with compassion.  It’s wonderful you have taken the brave mission to help.  Here are some tips to stay the course.

1. Don't be hard on yourself as you only have so much power to help.  It is easy to get frustrated thinking that you could do more, there must be some treatment you can find, or somehow to save them.  That is not in your hands, but the love, compassion, patience, and attention while they are present is with you.

2. Keep a journal and file of all medical documents, symptom management, and one for you to express feelings and good days you have with your loved one.

3. Share stories, laugh, and go somewhere enjoyable between the harder days of treatments, uncontrollable symptoms, or fatigue. Your time together is valuable.  This is what I call “Miracles in Between”, the title of my self-care book for caregivers.

4. You are as strong as you allow yourself, and resilience is available when least expected.  You will be surprised at what you are able to do when you thought it impossible.  There are days that are tough, but you manage and pull through them.  

5. Find your space of peace or solitude away from distractions, noise, people, and just be with yourself.  This peace can be found in nature, or closing your door with relaxing music.  Mental fatigue needs relief in a quiet space to recharge.

It’s amazing the dedication, love, and courage caregivers have to take care of a loved one.  You will be proud of yourself and never regret doing it.

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