W@TW: Caregiver's Survival Guide

Well it has been three weeks since my last post.  So much has happened that in some ways it seems like a lifetime and in other ways, I cannot believe that Christmas and the New Year's has come and gone.

On Thursday December 14th I received a phone call that my father had fallen and was being taken to a local emergency room.  That one call has set in motion a chain of events that has culminated with me sitting in my dad's hospice room writing this post.  It has been quite a journey and one that is not even remotely over. 

And so, I thought I would start a list of lessons learned (or in the process of learning) as I continue on the caregiver's journey:

  • There are many ways to accomplish the same thing.  As my husband reminded me, I don't even wash the dishes the same way he does.  I might not agree with the methods of some of the people taking care of my dad but I need to remember that the we are all in agreement of the end result (like clean dishes). 
  • Stay healthy:  Make sure you eat properly, get some form of exercise (even if it is pacing the hallways), and get some sleep.  Number #1 thing to remember but is so hard to do especially when you are living in the crisis mode of day to day and not knowing what changes could happen.  The thing is, if you do not deliberately take care of yourself, crisis mode living can become your default even when things aren't that bad.
  • Guard your tongue.  If you don't stay healthy, you will end up saying things you regret or at least you will be more likely to do so.
  • One person's sense of urgency doesn't have to be yours. Even in a crisis mode, there can be a sense of calm and deliberate action.  Just like bullet #1 don't let someone else's sense of urgency suck you into a path that doesn't feel right to you.
  • Family members will surprise you. I have had family members who have risen to the occasion and totally surprised my expectation. 
  • Give yourself permission to know that you have done the best that you could.  On this journey you will (no doubt about it)  make loads of mistakes.  You might've responded in a way that you now regret, said something hurtful or experience a feeling or emotion that surprises you.  It is okay.
  • Give your loved ones the same permission to know that they have done the best they could.

What about you?  Have you ever been on the caregiver's journey?  How did it go?  What lessons did you learn?  Or are still learning?