Learn how to be a supportive caregiver and still take care of your own needs.
Being a caregiver can be demanding at the best of times, but particularly if your loved one has had a sudden change in their health through either illness or an accident. It can be very frustrating for them to no longer be the way they were. Depending on the nature of the illness or accident, there might also be some question as to whether or not they will ever ‘get back to normal’ again.
In some instances, it will be a case of getting back to a ‘new normal’ as far as they can. It is difficult to imagine the kind of physical as well as mental health challenges that can take place within our loved one when faced with this situation, but there are some things that we can do to help support them as their caregiver to try to make an easier transition to your new life together.
1. Pull together your own support network.
Caregiver burn out can be a real danger. There are also some things you will not want to express in front of your loved one. Find someone to talk to about the situation away from your loved one. Venting any negative feelings within earshot can cause them to feel they are a burden to you.
2. Attend doctor’s appointments and therapy with them if they want you to, but do not insist.
Loved ones who have recently suffered a physical challenge need rehabilitation to get back to good physical condition. Attend with them for moral support if they want you to come.
3. Get them involved in family activities.
It may be too soon to interact with outsiders, but a family gathering is usually safe enough so long as there is no pressure for things to be the way they used to be all the time.
4. Let them grieve over their altered status, but not for too long.
A period of grief is normal as a person adjusts to their new normal and yet looks back at how things used to be and wishes they were the same. Everyone needs an adjustment period to come to terms with the changes in their lives, but a prolonged period of grief can lead to depression and an inability to move on. Get your loved one to try to take an active interest in day to day things and the outside world and make the most of what they have without wishing for what they don’t.
5. Be supportive without being pushy.
They know you care. You don’t need to let any guilty feelings drive you to show it with grand gestures. Just be there for them when you are in the house.
6. Know you will not be able to do it all yourself.
Your loved one will need help, but not necessarily round the clock care. Let them be as independent as they can be. For the times that you need to get out to do other things, make arrangements for someone to be on call or serve as a sitter just in case.
7. Try to stick to your routines.
The health challenge may be a severe one, but it does not mean that your whole life has to turn upside down. A sense of normalcy in your usual daily routines will help your loved one feel that not everything has changed in their life.