Caregivers are a special breed of people who step up during a family crisis. Many times, they begin caregiving without knowing which steps to take. Eventually, they and their loved ones just keep climbing until they figure it out.
But it’s not easy!
Just look at these steps from the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky. He trained hard to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” Then he began boxing in the ring of Parkinson’s disease awareness.
Likewise, there are times when caregivers need to train a bit harder. A confused loved one will resist with fear of the unknown. Sometimes, caregivers take a few steps then tumble to the ground. Other times, they’ll make progress before falling back a few steps. They want to give up. They fight hopelessness and depression. But when they find support, they brush themselves off, get up, and start caregiving, again.
Caregivers Do These Five Things Better Than Anyone Else
1. Communicate Unconditionally
If we could converse in our relationships and at work the way we talk with loved ones with dementia, we’d have fewer separations, divorces, and even job firings.
We’ve learned that it’s best not to argue or even try to reason with a loved one who, for example, thinks it’s raining. The sun may be shining without a single cloud in the sky. First, thank your loved one for being observant and then offer an umbrella.
Donna Hoover, who replied to my Facebook invitation, takes it a step further and writes of love. “Charity/Agape love. Unconditional. It is the love that exists regardless of changing circumstances… sometimes even in a split second.”
Love will empower us to communicate unconditionally and adapt quickly.
2. Tap Dance
Of course, there are truly magnificent tap dancers! Figuratively speaking then, caregivers dance their way up and down diverse roles, including doctor, housekeeper, lawyer, culinary artisan, therapist, and oh, working outside the home. Some days, they “float like a butterfly. Kathy Hoadley Montero replied with “Flexibility!”
But caregiving’s not all dancing. There are days when one pulls out tufts of hair in frustration while still trying to figure out what to do.
3. Exercise Patience
Caregivers are patient. Once they learn what they need to do they discover patience helps them get more accomplished. Rushing only invites resistance. Sure, there are times when patience flies right into a closed door. On Facebook, Kit Gonzales advised that caregivers “[n]eed to learn patience in the ‘over and over’ parts.” This could mean gently answering the same questions, repeatedly. Doing so may drive you mad, while preserving your care recipient’s dignity. You decide.
What comes next may appear noble, but places caregiver survival at risk.
3. Work 24/7 – Not Enough Pay
As I write this, firefighters are working around the clock to stop the spread of multiple fires in Southern California. We’re grateful for their heroic and tireless efforts. Those of us who have been in the path of fire feel they deserve those hefty overtime dollars.
Meanwhile, caregivers are also working tirelessly – 24/7. Many earn nothing. Yes, we believe the work is rewarding enough. Yet, many of us sacrifice future retirement benefits because we made the decision to care for our loved ones.
Like firefighters, caregivers are always alert. They’re constantly questioning: Did I make the right decision? What do I need to remember for tomorrow? The 24/7 responsibility takes a toll. This is why caregivers will laugh at Rx Humor for Caregivers, especially, the first item.
4. Selflessly support one another
Caregivers who get to know one another, will be there for one another. Through support groups, they grow to become family.
Since most people have little idea of what it means to be a caregiver (until they’ve been one), they’ll say, “Let me know what you need.” “Call me if you need something.” Caregivers will call and say, “I’m at the store right now. When we talked yesterday you mentioned needing milk. May I pick up a half-gallon and drop it off on my way home?” They understand what it means to offer specific and timely help. They take time to get to know you and then have your back.
5. Answer the Call
There’s usually one family member who will step up during a crisis. Caregivers answer the call.
I invite you to share your answer to: What ONE thing do Caregivers do better than anyone else? Let’s have some fun with this and get responses from our readers. (Suggestion: Draft your response in a separate document and then copy and paste in the comment form, below.)