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I Am a Caregiver


My opinion on how you can be an effective and loving caregiver...and survive

Disclaimer: I did not survive, not in any real sense, and it took almost eight years to become coherent again. Don't do what I did.

We had been married eleven months and twenty days when my husband was diagnosed with malignant brain cancer.

Tim was a magnificent husband and an exemplary human being. His loss was not mine alone but belonged to all the people he had touched, helped, smiled at during his life. To the world.

Major truth? It probably wouldn't have mattered if at the time of his diagnosis I had also learned he was a serial rapist and murderer of children.

How you perform as a caregiver isn't about the patient. It's about you.

We thought Tim might have the flu and I bullied him into going to the ER. In 45 soul-shredding minutes we were bound for Pittsburgh and major brain surgery.

Before the ambulance turned into the entry at the UPMC hospital i had determined Tim was not only going to live, he was going to flourish and I was going to make that happen.

Life and death are out of your control. Dismiss that idiotic notion right now.

There are things you can control, to greater or lesser degrees. Focus on those.

At the outset, take the time it seems you don't have to analyze and set in stone your own minimum needs. Write them down and post them somewhere you'll see them every day.

Never, ever, discount your own essential emotional, mental, and physical requirements. In order to care for your beloved, you have to be healthy in mind, body and spirit. If you become ill or simply too exhausted to even think, where will that leave your patient?

Being rude will be counter-productive, but depending on the nature of your patient's illness, discard any notions that hospitals are temples, nurses are angels, and doctors are gods.

Many of the medical components in the above paragraph ARE otherworldly in their professionalism, compassion and skill. Many are not. And everybody, even you, has a bad day now and again, Just keep your eyes open. Hospitals now operate on the bottom line, and you are the border guard between triumph and disaster. Trust me when I tell you that you are going to be tested for endurance.

If you have never had a healthy thought in your life, change that as you read this.

Don't live on fast food and chocolate. Take the time three times a day to eat well and digest. The shredded wheat and blueberries you eat for breakfast might well save your patient's life by supporting thought and providing energy later in the day.

Change your perspective frequently.
Staring prayerfully at your sleeping patient, in my opinion, is effective. Staring prayerfully at your sleeping patient 24/7 is self-indulgent and you don't have time for it.

You can pray as you circuit the hospital grounds three times in a brisk, mind-clearing walk.

Find support that is focused on you alone. Right now, start seeing a counselor. Look online for support groups in your patient's particular affliction. Attend faithfully, because those folks are going to understand a terrifying predicament without a half hour's explanation.

Find places in your life that reliably soothe your nerves and bolster your spirit.

At your local hospital, find the chapel and the chaplain, whether or not you are a person of faith. Sooner or later you are going to need them. Introduce yourself.

Many hospitals now have water gardens or flower gardens. You may have beloved places in the mountains or by the sea or on your own patio. Use them. Your spirit needs restoring.

Scream. Cry. Pray.
If you keep all that bottled up it will sicken you.

When/if your patient dies, forgive yourself, and get over yourself. Immortality is not something you ever had the power to convey.
DrWatson · 70-79, M
This is the kind of wisdom that can only come from experience. Thank you for posting, and I commend you for reflecting on what happened and coming up with this.
@DrWatson Yes. Who knew I was still in here?

Twenty months and four days sober.
DrWatson · 70-79, M
@Mamapolo2016 ✋😀
@DrWatson Me too. I'll take that high five.
Coolkid77 · 26-30, M
Wow. Awesome experience.

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