What do you wish you would have known before becoming a caregiver to your loved one? You are a surrogate decision maker; simply defined, you are a proxy, substitute, stand-in, representative, back-up, and a necessary ambassador…knee-deep in the role. What are you chasing to understand? What medical equipment are you wishing you had “NOW”? Who are your support systems; and what conversations should have occurred earlier?
These are real questions in need of real answers. The role of caregiving takes on many forms and is impactful globally. Families are unique, but care is universal. I have mentioned many times over there are stages one travels in the caregiving space. The complexity is often underestimated by those who have not experienced the challenges, stress, and strain. The overall outcome is the health, safety, and well-being of our love-ones and the mental health of you!
We should expect the family to take an active role in caring. If each of us would think back and recall our childhood, we would see our family and support systems doing their part to help those requiring care. Have you heard the term, once an adult, twice a child? We were warned at birth that we will need care as we live, breathe, and age. We came into the world needing care and we will need care in our wonder years as the end of life is sure to come.
On the journey of caregiving….taking care of you is required in the process. Caregiving is diverse and the timing of becoming a caregiver is different for everyone, and for sure the care encounters are different as well. Because of this, do not forget to acknowledge your need for a break. Don’t end up in a pile of tears and frustration. There are many signs as a caregiver saying, “I need a break!” Do not ignore the signs that may or may not be obvious, like, irritability, feeling alone, anxiety, sleeplessness, sadness, and even anger.
As your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, I am encouraging you to exhale and breathe. Caregiver life is hard work, but a fantastic life when you think about giving to someone unable to do for themselves. Giving yourself to others is a selfless act that will always be valued and appreciated by those who know and understand the journey. Be safe! Be well!
Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is a retired registered nurse and case manager; CEO of Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate and author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor, and The Black Book of Important Information for Caregivers.