Caregiver thoughts #2

Control expectations, and be flexible.

If you’re caring for someone who’s recovering, you want to convey optimism, but things proceed on their own schedules, and progress is not always linear. Some days it’s two steps forward, some days it’s a step back, some days you just fight it to a standstill.

It’s ok to make plans, but be prepared if your cared-for can’t attend that event, or progress isn’t “on schedule”, or even if you have to change your own plans because your cared-for needs you. Do not get so enamored with a plan that you get all in knots if it has to change. That becomes just a bunch of stress you don’t need and wastes mental bandwidth.

Options are a good thing. If your job permits, keep your laptop handy so you can do work when you’re sitting around the hospital. Know where the grocery stores are so you can make a quick stop on the way between places. Have a friend who can mow the grass and look after the cat if you get tied up. Carry durable snacks (preferably something healthy, like trail mix) in case you have to miss a meal. Know places where you can get a healthy meal if you don’t have time to fix something (I like Subway). Carry your most important medications with you (tip: a small re-sealable bag takes up a lot less room in a backpack than a pharmacy bottle – just make sure it’s properly labeled). Having options like these in your back pocket will help reduce the stress when the situation changes.

Be flexible, and know your priorities. If you’re called away from work, know that you’re taking care of the Most Important thing (your cared-for), and don’t worry about work. That’s what FMLA is for (for my US reader, anyway). Remember to keep your own self a spot on the priority list (see Caregiver thoughts #1) and, if your cared-for is in a good situation, go run or do some gardening or whatever you like to do to unwind.

It is what it is, and what will be will be (I think that’s from a song).

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