If you're reading this, I want you to know---you're a good person. You have a good heart.
"Bad" caregivers aren't reading, searching, and hoping. You are.
I hope that within these suggestions, you find one that's touches your life and heart today.
- Keep a sense of humor. Laugh at your mistakes, your misunderstandings, and even at the unfairness of life.
- Keep your life and your loved one's life as normal as possible for as long as possible.
- Do your living wills as a family. Anyone over 16 needs one.
- Keep your job--don't use all your valuable time and energy too early into the caregiving process.
- Be the family you always are--if you're loud, shy, conservative, or bawdy--enjoy your heritage
- It's not bad to admit you're exhausted, that you want all this to be over, that you don't think you can do it anymore. Those are signals that it might be time for a change.
- Be your loved one's advocate in the health community--they need you.
- Sometimes the best caregiver you can be is to allow someone else (paid care, geriatric care manager, another sibling or neighbor) handle the day to day issues. It's okay. Coordinating care, and making sure that everyone has what they need is still caregiving.
- You don't have to sacrifice your whole life to prove you're a good person--or that you love someone else.
- You don't have to be feel close and all warm and fuzzy with the person you're giving care to. Sometimes it's about integrity.
- Take care of you--every day. You can't love or be there for someone else until you learn how to do it for yourself first
- Try not to think you can "fix" your relationship. People, (especially when they are wracked with illness or aging) can't necessarily change. Be okay with that.
- Anger is a good sign. We only get angry about things we know we might be able to change. Use your anger in constructive ways--as a catalyst for change.
- Even if you're not the primary caregiver, still participate. Caregivers need caregivers. Reach out to your sibling, mom, or friend who is caregiving and find ways to support and encourage them.
- Know when you've reached your limit. Ask for help. Scream for help if you have to.
- When the time comes for your loved one to pass, let them. Be at peace. Know that you've done all you reasonably can.
- Forgive and accept your loved one, yourself, your siblings, and even life--exactly for what it is.
- Cultivate a grateful heart. Start small--be grateful for the shafts of light that greet you at your kitchen window in the morning, and for the wag of your dog's tail.
- Know that your time as a caregiver will end. You may caregive again, but as each season moves us along, allow for this new season to change you.