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Caring for the Caregivers

I am a daughter and caregiver to my father, a Parkinson’s fighter. He is 84 and doing remarkably well. Dad came to live with me and my husband last August. Which means all three of us have had to learn new roles. At first, the change in living arrangements and remodeling work was about all any of us could handle; but now, I’ve assumed the primary caregiver role and am looking into how to be the best, and sanest, caregiver possible. I’ve come to the conclusion the “sane” part may be the most challenging. And I’m pretty sure my father agrees.

My first resource was to Google articles on caregiving. Three in particular I’m going to touch on here. Stress Management, by Mayo Clinic Staff (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784); Taking Care of YOU, by the Family Caregiver Alliance (https://www.caregiver.org/print/227 ); and, Prepare to Care, from AARP Family Caregiving (https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/caregiving/2018/02/prepare-to-care-guide-english-aarp.pdf?intcmp=AE-HF-CAR-P2CGD-ENG). I would highly recommend all three.

Both Stress Management and Taking Care of YOU discuss the heavy weight a caregiver carries on a daily basis and the need for personal time and personal space. The example of what a flight attendant says on every flight is oft quoted regarding caregivers, “put on your own mask before assisting those in need around you”. Following this advice is extremely difficult, even more so for many of us females who tend to care for everyone but ourselves. I confess, I am one. So, I have been making all the meals, helping with dressing, doing all laundry, taking Dad to Rock Steady Boxing, the YMCA and Support groups every day, scheduling and attending all medical visits, communicating with all his physicians, coaching him on home therapy exercises, paying his bills, handling his taxes, etc. And then I sheepishly “asked”, like I needed permission, to go spend two hours to have my nails done. And the worst thing in all this, I’m doing it to myself.

If you too find yourself overwhelmed, read these articles, talk to other caregivers, join a caregivers’ support group. Caregivers must set personal barriers, “this is my time, my space…you will have to wait”. Sounds simple but it is not. And I can tell you from experience, it feels selfish. But you know what, neither my husband nor my Dad seemed bothered by my boundary setting at all. What a weight-lifting revelation. Caregivers need to eat right, get exercise, sleep. I’m still a work in progress on these. But I’ve concluded that I’m worth that effort. And asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. We do not have to do everything all by ourselves. The AARP booklet has outstanding charts which you might find helpful. From listing healthcare professionals’ contact information, to financial decisions, to how to organize a day.

Life should be a joy or what is the point. So, go, be a joyful caregiver.

Annette and her father.


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