November is National Caregiver’s Month!
To honor and support your caregivers, consider the following tips from author and patient Toni Bernhard in part one of this two part series.
Mrs. Bernhard writes:
My illness has been as hard on my caregiver-husband as it’s been on me. I know how fortunate I am that he has stuck around and never complains about his extra burdens as a result of my condition. My heart goes out to those of you who don’t have someone to care for you in this way.
This piece covers several strategies to ease your caregiver’s burden. It focuses on caregivers who are partners, but these suggestions can be used to help other caregivers, such as children, parents, or siblings.
1. Caregiver health. Many caregivers tend to ignore medical issues they develop. As a result, you may need to encourage your caregiver to seek medical health. If your caregiver is receiving treatment, don’t forget to ask about their wellbeing.
2. Speak honestly about your caregiver’s responsibilities. Most caregivers have other commitments unrelated to their caregiving responsibilities (such as a job or familial obligations). If you do not honestly assess what your caregiver can reasonably do, your caregiver may feel they need to do everything. This can lead to caregiver burnout, caregiver depression, and may compromise your caregiver’s health.
3. Ask for help. Once you and your caregiver assess your caregiver’s responsibilities, consider together the people in your life who may be available to help. Many of us have been taught that it is a sign of weakness to ask for help, but it’s not. Additionally, many assume people will offer assistance. It took me years of illness to realize how people want to help but need to be asked. Once they are aware of the situation, people will jump at the opportunity to provide aid.
4. Find ways to preserve the relationship you had before your illness. Although preserving the relationship you had with your caregiver before you became chronically ill may require careful planning, it’s worth the effort because it provides the opportunity do something emotionally nourishing and enjoyable for both of you. Think about what made your relationship “tick.” Perhaps you and your caregiver enjoyed a good laugh together. Although you may no longer be able to go to a comedy club, you could watch stand-up comedians on television. If you like to talk about politics or spiritual matters, pick a time of day when you have the most energy and engage your caregiver in conversation. You may need to be creative, but I’ve found that being chronically ill requires a lot of out-of-the-box thinking!
To read part 2, click here.
This article was reprinted with permission from Toni Bernhard. Toni Bernhard is the author of the award-winning How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers and How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow. Her new book, A Mindful Path through Chronic Pain and Illness, will be published in the Fall of 2015. Before becoming ill, she was a law professor at the University of California—Davis. Her blog, “Turning Straw Into Gold” is hosted by Psychology Today. Visit her website at www.tonibernhard.com.