Saturday, January 9, 2010

Caregivers deserve a PAT

I've had the topic of caregivers on the brain a lot lately because of my Mother, Grandmother, and Grandfather.  It's hard to envision such lovely, vibrant ,people, ill, and yet, it's a reality that most of us will face.  They are not the only ones in the family that are ill, there are a few other members that are dealing with cancer and one member just recently had surgery to remove a brain tumor.  However, all and all, everyone seems to be okay. 

Illness is a part of life and we all have to deal with it at some point in our lives.  Some of us will beat it and some of us will have to learn to live with it for the rest of our lives.  Cancer, Alzheimer's, and tumors are something that can be devastating to the patient because these illnesses are long and will involve a lot of doctors and hospital stays.  There's also the possibility of death with these illnesses which makes it difficult on the sufferer and the family, it's not fun... But I don't want you all to start feeling sorry for me-- that's not the reason for this entry.

What I want to do with this entry is to delve further into the subject of caregivers.  Caregivers come in many forms, and when you think about it, most of us have either already been one, or will be one in the future.  Moms and Dads are caregivers and people that are taking care of ill family members are caregivers too.  The Baby Bommers will need a lot of us to care for them once they hit their golden years-- whether they want us to or not.  Some of us who suffer from Fibro need a caregiver from time to time too, however, some of us with Fibromyalgia are caregivers to other people and this is the topic for today.

Caregiving is difficult.  It's no picnic.  A lot of friends of mine don't even know what I'm going through right now because I simply just don't have the time to call them and that's a sad reality for me.  My days are too chock filled with helping family members that I just haven't had the time to pick up a phone, and to them, I'm sorry for that.

Yes, some of you reading this could say, well, what's wrong with her friends?  Don't they have a dialing finger?  Yes, they sometimes do, but a lot of them are caregivers too and it's hard for them to call.  They have kids, and kids can take up a lot of your time.  I remember not being able to even look at a book with words until my oldest daughter was in school.  It's a reality.

Some of my friends with kids are also dealing with aging parents too, and this is where my blog is going.  It's hard to deal with aging parents or aging grandparents because you remember them like they were.  It's hard to see them discouraged and depressed.  It's hard to see them look at you with little clue as to who you are to them.  No picnic at the beach-- to say the least-- and you deserve a PAT on the back for doing it.

PAT is a mantra I've learned to love right now because, as you can imagine, my health is compromised every time I care for someone else and neglect my own needs.  It's something we all do, we all neglect ourselves, but we have to PAT at least once a week-- if not more!

PAT stands for Picking your battles, Anticipating problems, and Taking time out for yourself.

Picking your battles may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to a 2 year old, but what about an 89 year old adult that has Alzheimer's?  How do you pick you battles there?  You do very carefully.  Yes, they will forget you, and yes, they may even accuse of some things.  But what I find that works well the most is to go with the flow.  If they don't remember you as their daughter, but as their nurse, go with it.  If they are confused as to how to help you out with your caregiving for them, give them a task to do. 

Battles don't have to be won, they just have to be lived through as best as you can.  Don't over analyze what you say, just do what's needed as best as you can and move on.  It's all you can do at that moment in time and you can fix it later.  Remember that, you can always fix it later.

Anticipating problems can be a daunting tasks when it comes to little ones and the elderly.  Stairs are an obvious problem for both.  Just the other day I had to grab my daughter from my Grandfather because she was trying to pull him down the stairs for lunch time.  He was concerned for her safety on the stairs and almost took a fall for her. 

This can be a huge reality for anyone faced with caring for an young child and an Alzheimer's patient.  A gate may not help with the Alzheimer's patient, but it may help with your 2 year old.  I can't tell you what's best for your particular situation as far as your stairs are concerned, but I can tell you that it's much easier to anticipate what might happen rather than to react. 

Personally, I feel that a gate can be more of a reaction rather than a solution.  I by no means mean to tell to stop using them, but think about it, if there were a fire in your house, can you really get that gate up in time?  The same is true when your child is choking in a high chair.  Can you honestly say that you can get the tray and restraint off quick enough?

Child restraints are good.  They help us in life-- there is no doubt.  But common sense should prevail no matter what.  If your child is with an adult that may need help themselves, try to anticipate what might happen.  Does your child need a nap while you prepare lunch?  Let the child sleep in the arms of Grandpa if he can handle it.  There's no harm in that.

Taking time out for yourself can be a hard thing, but you have to do it.  You may not have time, you may feel guilty, but you HAVE to do it so you can be there for everyone that needs you.  Whether it's a shower, a crocheting fest, writing fest, or just plain watching tv, go ahead and do it for yourself to clear your head for another day.  PAT yourself!

Stay fabulous,
Love and friendship,

Kimberley
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