When a crisis hits, everyone asks what they can do, right? It takes a unique, loving person to jump in and become a caregiver. It's a demanding job, but it’s also rewarding. When our daughter received her diagnosis of stage 4 cancer, we filled with fear, apprehension, and dread. The crisis touched each of us in a personal way, but it was my daughter whose life was in jeopardy. She needed an infusion of hope, the essential element to never giving up. We formed a team to stand with her and promised to do everything in our power to save her. She would never be alone in this fight, and that made all the difference in the world. She automatically had three caregivers; Her husband, mother, and me, her father. It's natural to stand next to your loved one and help any way you can. Love is the foundation most caregivers build on. Here are some of the things we learned.
Our patient was never alone in the hospital or at home. We were at every appointment and procedure. It not only helped her, but it also helped us. Always place the patient's needs first and let them know they are not alone. Be their advocate, learn about their illness, and follow their doctor’s advice. Know your limitations. Coordinate help from others and look for support groups.
You become their lifeline, coach, and confidant, but that’s not enough. Be their angel, their friend, and shower them with love. Be patient with them because they are afraid. Don’t react to their outbursts. Understand their fears and concerns without judgment. Help where you can, but accept the fact you can’t make everything better. Help them focus on things in their control. Be a role model by smiling and staying positive. Focus on the good in every situation and help them celebrate their victories no matter how small.
Look for ways to take their minds off their problems. Bring humor into their life and yours by watching funny movies or reading books that create laughter. Surround them with the things they enjoy. Play their favorite music and cook the foods they like. I spoiled my daughter with jellybeans. Help them take one day at a time by focusing on anything positive.
Place the patient first, but don’t forget about yourself. Caretaking can drain you emotionally and physically. Since you don't want to burden them with your sorrow and fear, escape occasionally, and recharge to help another day. Take time to exercise, take a walk in the park, or read a good book. Talk to friends and focus on things other than the caretaking. Meditate and find peace in the silence.
Taking care of this amazing woman was one of the best things my wife, son-in-law, and I have ever done. Her Mayo Oncologist told us we were as crucial to her survival as the drugs, doctors, and surgeons. Our reward was her overcoming an 8% chance of living to become cured and cancer-free. I hope in some small way this helps others do what they can to save their loved ones. If you choose to become a caretaker, make it one of the best things you did in life.
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