My best advice for a caregiver: Don’t do it alone!
There’s no doubt about it: Caregiving can be extremely difficult. Not only do you need to attend to the needs of the person under your care, but you also have to make sure your own necessities are being met.
Many caregivers of someone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or any other type of cancer, may not know where to begin. A lot of people have questions about what they should do, who they can trust, and what resources might be available. Even if you have been a caregiver awhile, seeing how other caregivers operate can help trigger new ideas of your own and revitalize your own approach to caregiving.
With that in mind, the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center reached out to some experienced caregivers to find out what their advice is for caregivers both old and new. We’ve provided their responses below. We also want to hear your own experiences, so be sure to comment and offer your own caregiving tips!
Debbie Johnston, RN
CEO and Founder of Care Advantage, Inc.
Caregiving – You don’t know until you know!
You don’t know the exhaustion and overwhelming feeling that comes with caregiving until you have to care for a loved one. In turn, you don’t know the joy and peace of mind that comes with it until you are in a caregiver’s shoes.
I knew what my company did, but I did not fully understand the caregiving role until my mother needed care. It’s long, stressful, and painful hours trying to do and organize the best care for a most precious loved one. Once you organize that journey though, it is blissful to know that you did everything you could for your loved one’s health, safety, and happiness.
Fasten your seatbelt low and tight and hang on for the ride. It takes patience, love, and foresight to plan for the journey and ability to ask for help and no one should do it alone. As a caregiver, you must take care of yourself too. You cannot effectively take care of a loved one if you are stressed, depressed, and tired yourself.
My dad always told me to become a nurse. He said that nursing would always afford me a job in good times and in bad and that I had the heart of a caregiver – which caregiving is not for the faint of heart.
After years of employing over 4,000 caregivers, myself and my company have come to understand what it takes to be one. My best advice for new caregivers making their way into the healthcare world:
- The patient is first.
- Put forth empathy.
- Put your heart into it without putting your heart out.
Foremost, your patient is your number one priority: their health, their safety, their happiness. They are entrusting you with their life. Don’t take that lightly. Remember that your patient does not want to be a patient. They want to be happy and healthy but are unable to be by themselves so they have you.
Which brings us to the second priority. They may be sad, mad, or resistant for needing care so please understand their situation and show empathy to them.
Finally, you may become family to your patient. You may grow to love them as your own family and the same for them. That is an ideal quality in a caregiver but it is a joy and a burden. Know that your patient may pass away. Put your heart into your job but also know your heart may get broken when your patient passes. And as always, a caregiver must take care of themselves if you are going to be able to take care of others.
President of Family & Nursing Care
Twenty-five percent of American households find themselves in the role of a caregiver for a family member. One challenge they face is staying positive while caring for their loved one. It is important that they stay connected to friends and family by maintaining regular communication and activities. Remaining connected to friends and accepting their offers of help is a great way to open up and talk about your feelings as well as allow you to step away for a few minutes and avoid being consumed by caregiving duties.
It is equally important to maintain your physical health by eating balanced meals, and finding ways to relax and decompress through activities like yoga or other exercise routines. An understanding that you cannot – and should not – do it all alone is imperative. Accepting offers of help from other family and friends and professional caregivers will help restore your physical, mental, and emotional health.
There are many ways to “recharge the batteries” – meditation, yoga, reading, or participating in a hobby are great ways to step away and become grounded. Focus on enjoying life’s simpler pleasures to help renew your spirits and provide positive energy to both yourself and the one receiving your care.
Questions to Ask Caregivers Before Hiring
In many cases, primary caregivers cannot always be around. They may have errands to run, appointments to keep, or might simply need to take some time for themselves. Nobody can spend 24/7 looking after another person without having to take some time away for themselves.
In those instances, it may be necessary to find a secondary caregiver to fill in. When looking at agencies or individuals to provide care in your absence. Here are some questions you should ask when looking at different people or organizations that provide care services.
- What costs am I responsible for, and how does the caregiver get paid?
- Will it cost more for service on weekends, nights, or holidays? Which holidays are observed?
- How does my insurance work with caregiving services? Does the caregiver accept Medicare, Medicaid or long-term care insurance?
- How long have you been offering caregiving service, and what licenses do you have?
- What if I need caregiving assistance in an emergency? Are you available after hours?
- How experienced are the caregivers? Can they verify their training?
- Can the caregiver meet special needs or requirements, such as cooking, driving, etc.?
- How can complaints, conflicts, or concerns be resolved appropriately?
There may be other questions based on your specific situation, such as if you have pets, require a live-in caregiver, or have other needs particular to your circumstances. When looking for a caregiver, sit down and write out all of the questions you may have first, and add to them as you continue your search.