Becoming a Caregiver

Becoming a Caregiver – First, Breathe

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You’re going to be a Caregiver. You’re going to be tired; tired with worry. You’re going to have questions. You might feel you’re incapable. You will feel lost, and afraid. The word care is not new to you. You’ve cared about many things in life. The word Caregiver is broad, as will be your new role. Whether it be a new diagnosis, or an illness that has progressed, learning about “what” you will be caring for will be at the top of your to-do list. The “what” does not make up the “who”. “Who” has a name; we will call him John. You will be caring for a person, as a whole. You will need to learn about John’s physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and even financial needs; not just about his illness. You will need to keep an open mind, and look at the big picture; not just a disease. Dementia, COPD, or even Grandpa who fell, and broke his hip. From something that seems simple, to the most complex of illnesses, it has happened to someone you care about. Simple to someone else, does not have to mean simple to you. Guaranteed, it doesn’t mean simple to John. John’s perception will become the one that matters to you. Just because someone calls it simple, does not make it easy.

Humans don’t want to be burdens – or most don’t! You, as a Caregiver, need to forget that concept right now. You are not a burden. Your friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers, are here to help you. In 23 years of nursing I haven’t once thought of a Caregiver as a burden. There is no reason to hide your new role. John is not a burden, to you, or anyone else. He most likely feels that way as it is – he doesn’t need you playing the role with him. As his Caregiver, you will take it upon yourself to encourage, and support him. You need to let others do the same for you. Doctor’s appointments, new medications (you should learn what his medications are, and what they’re for; or ask someone. Questions are good!), strange equipment, physio, occupational therapy, speech therapy, rehab, dietitian, treatments, procedures, medical supplies, Careplans, new people, and navigating through the system… Wait! What?! They have that many kinds of therapies?! Yes, they do, and more! These things are going to become common household words. The resources today are beyond that of days gone by. Making resources available is what healthcare providers do. They are all here, in your corner, on your team. Team Caregiver. The phrase, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”, is not just a phrase on Team Caregiver. It’s fact! If one medication doesn’t work, there are others. If a walker with no wheels doesn’t work, there’s a walker with 4 wheels. A tub you can walk in to, a shampoo that washes hair while someone’s in bed. It’s all fact, and Team Caregiver knows all about it. You are not, nor will you ever have to be, alone.

As a Caregiver, you need to remember to take care of yourself in all the ways you’re taking care of John, and more. “You time” will soon have a whole new meaning. Going by yourself to the grocery store will seem like the best 30 minutes of your life, and you can forget about feeling guilty. Respite – taking time away for you – is a word that you need to learn, and not be afraid to use. When you need it, it’s only a phone call away. You will need it! Taking care of you, rejuvenating, and learning to breathe that long needed cleansing breath again. These things will become an essential part of you, as a Caregiver.

You’re taking on a role that will change your life as much as life has changed for John. Work, your social life, you personal life, financially, and even emotionally. None of these things will ever be the same. You will appear strong around others, but cry behind closed doors. You will smile when it matters, but feel drained from head to toe. You will feel lonely, even when there is a house full of people. You’re not alone. You will adapt, you will carry on, and you will be okay. You have already taken the first step as a new Caregiver. You’re reading. You’re searching for the tools you need to make this work for you, and more importantly, work for John! You’re doing what you need to do. Your role as a Caregiver is an essential part of your every day life. Essential because it’s something you are doing for someone else; you are making life not about you! Kudos! You got this!

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About the Author

Anita Comfort

A Registered Nurse for 23 years, Anita's career began in Northern Saskatchewan, moving to Ottawa in 2000. She has experience in Long Term Care, Maternity, Medicine, Surgery, and Palliative Care. High on her priority list is being a strong patient advocate. As an instructor of healthcare providers, and Legal Nurse Consultant, she stands up for what she believes in. Working alongside Integrity Healthcare, she carries on her passion of being an advocate where ever she is needed; both corporate and in the home. Anita feels that everyone deserves to have someone in their corner.

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