November is National Caregiver’s Month!
To honor and support your caregivers, consider more tips from author and patient Toni Bernhard in part two of this two-part series.
To read part one, click here.
5. Encourage your caregiver to do things without you. Caregivers often feel reluctant to do things for themselves. I think this stems from our “all or nothing” cultural conditioning. It leads caregivers to think they must be committed at all times or they’re failing as a caregiver. Not true! Convince your caregiver to take time for themselves. Let them know it is important to your well-being as well as theirs.
If your caregiver is housebound because of your needs, suggest new ways to do old things. For example, your caregiver can use Skype or FaceTime to stay connected to people. My husband uses Snapchat with our granddaughter. Snapchat is a crazy “app” where one person takes a photo or a short video and sends it. As soon as the other views it, it’s deleted! They have fun with it.
6. Let your caregiver know you value them. At times, I have been complacent, passively accepting a meal my husband cooks without considering how much care and effort went into preparing it—on top of all his other responsibilities. I constantly work on treating everything he does for me with gratitude.
7. Remind your caregiver that things may improve. My health has improved since the early years of my illness. Although I still can’t travel, I am no longer bedridden and spend more time in the living room. Occasionally I go to a café in the afternoon or out to an early dinner. These small changes have made life easier and more pleasant for my husband. I think it benefits patients and caregivers alike to remember the universal law of impermanence and how it can be your friend.
8. Help your caregiver accept your new life. Even if your condition does not improve, you can help your caregiver find peace with this new life. Gently remind your caregiver that life sometimes takes unexpected and unwelcome turns. It happens to everyone. Although this is not how you wanted to spend your time, it is your reality. The more you can accept it without bitterness, the more peace of mind you and your caregiver will find.
Look for ways this new life has brought unexpected benefits—perhaps the opportunity to spend more time together. Share your thoughts with your caregiver and try to treasure and nourish them together.
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.