Today we have a guest blog post from Rob Harris from Rob Cares, a website on how to be a great caregiver. He has some great tips today on helping your loved one get through those difficult times that are bound to come up.
What does a patient go through? One day, they are an independent, thriving, happy child or adult. The next, they are prisoners. It doesn’t have to be in a hospital. One can be held captive just as easily in their own home.
Most patients are poked and prodded. They have blood drawn on a regular basis. IV tubes may be dangling from poles into their arms or, for many cancer patients, a surgically inserted port. They may have to use a bedpan or a catheter may be attached, depending on the nature of the ailment or surgical procedure.
One can certainly understand how a care recipient might begin to fall into a depressed state; feeling vulnerable, unattractive, unclean and alone, no longer a viable member of their family.
As a caregiver, one of the most valuable contributions you can make is to keep the patient’s spirits elevated, especially during these “down times.” You may not always be successful. The challenge is monumental and ongoing. Keep in mind that certain medications can compound the matter and negatively impact the patient’s emotional state, thus making your role even more confounding.
What should you expect to occur? Expect anything and everything at any time, day or night. By doing so, you won’t be startled should an unanticipated event arise.
As a caregiver, you will likely encounter the following – crying, yelling, cursing, insults, accusations, threats, self-depreciation, sadness, withdrawal and any other human emotion that a person might project. Anything is possible.
What can you do when confronted with an emotional outburst?
• Be a Good Listener: I’ve always believed in the phrase “less is more.” It correlates to virtually everything in life. In the case of a distraught loved one, less is more can represent talk less – and listen more. A truly good listener does so during 75 percent of all conversations. When my wife was having a very down day, I asked what was wrong and then allowed her to respond completely without interrupting or offering my opinion. Until she shared all that was bothering her, I delayed offering my opinion. Doing so provided me with the opportunity to completely understand what was wrong, and it gave her a chance to vent her frustrations without being contradicted or critiqued about her feelings.
• Physical Touch: Patients sometimes feel very alone. They, and only they, are the ones that are medicated, operated on, stuck in bed, and unable to look and feel their best. Occasional reassurances that you are there for them and that you love them as much as ever is important. Sometimes, however, words do not have the same impact as a simple touch, the holding of their hand, a hug or a kiss. Make a habit of maintaining regular physical contact with the care recipient. It assures them that you are there with them, both physically and emotionally.
A simple touch or hug can be more impactful than words (My wife and son).
• Be Visible: If you are a family caregiver, but you spend the majority of your time in other rooms of the house or watching TV elsewhere, you may be present, but your loved one is alone. So they don’t feel as if they are in solitary confinement, try to schedule quality time with them. Discuss family, politics, the weather, upcoming events, or play board games that take their mind off their medical issues for a few minutes.
• Avoid Patronizing: For whatever reason, many adults tend to talk down to the patient or treat them as if they suddenly transformed into a childlike-state. I’ve heard comments made by caregivers to their parents, such as, “We need to drink this so we can maintain our strength, don’t we?” Treat the patient with the dignity and respect they deserve. Patronizing a patient may create two situations: they may resent you for speaking to them in that manner, or they may regress by believing they need to rely on the caregiver for everything, thus sacrificing the feelings of independence they had enjoyed when healthy.
• Avoid the Blame Game: Nobody asked for this. You may not wish to be a caregiver, but consider this – does the patient really want to be the patient? Do you think they are thrilled that you have had to turn your life upside-down to take care of them? Blaming the patient for something they have absolutely no control over is ludicrous and detrimental to the relationship. Focus on the fact that you are spending quality time with a loved one and helping them to combat the most challenging episode of their lives. Would you not want them to do the same for you? If the answer is yes, parlay your emotional energies into positive thoughts and dialogues.
• Keep Their Mind Sharp: Much as we may want to make life easier for the patient, let them continue participating in their daily routines. It keeps their mind sharp. Provide them with activities to stimulate their mind, such as puzzles, word games or Internet websites. Keep them as actively involved as possible in all that they used to do and should continue to do for as long as possible.
• Keep Friends and Family Near: As a caregiver, if you know that having guests in the house will stimulate the patient and contribute to their happiness and wellbeing, be assertive in your requests for others to visit. Also, use this as an opportunity to solicit help for yourself. If they agree to come, ask them if they can donate a few minutes extra to provide you with much needed relief. If someone asks what he or she can bring, think of something! Accept their generous offer without hesitation. If you know your loved one likes to work on jigsaw puzzles, ask them to bring at least one. They key is the patient’s happiness. Having visitors spend time with the care recipient will provide you both with a much-needed break from each other.
If you have some tips to help others when being a caregiver, leave a comment below, we would be happy to hear them.