Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Caregiver Wednesdays- The wife as caregiver

My role as wife started on a hot day in August, over 30 years before. I knew how to be a wife, and had fulfilled that role for a long time.

 My role as caregiver crept up on me. I had been a caregiver for a while before I even realised that I had the role. I had no idea how to be a caregiver, and I made many mistakes. Sometimes, I came on too strong. Sometimes I held back when I should have spoken up. Sometimes, I forgot I was still a wife.

And there's the rub. A wife who is also a caregiver is also a wife. The roles slip in and out, and the whole experience requires incredible flexibility, tact and creativity. And prayer.

Here are some practical suggestions:

1. Go to as many doctor's appointments as possible. Because I worked full time, this wasn't always possible for me, but if I had it to do again, I'd use holiday time--it's that important. I learned that my husband wasn't good at asking questions, or getting the answers we needed. When I did go, I took a list of questions, and made notes. An even better suggestion I heard was to tape record the appointment. It is so easy (especially under stress) to misunderstood important information or forget to ask important questions.

2. Share with a friend. There will be times when you will need a sounding board, either because you are incredibly frustrated, or your heart is breaking. Find those you can trust to share your burden.

3. Take a break. There will be times when you need to get away from the situation and from your spouse. Even grocery shopping or other chores can give you some respite, but a night out with friends is even better.

4. Take a break together. Sometimes the disease and the impairment it brings becomes bigger than it should. Find a way to have some fun together that has nothing to do with the disease. Be a husband and wife again.

5. Use email or social media to its fullest extent. Let people know what is happening through one source, and have any questions directed to that (newsletter, email, Facebook page etc.) Better still have one person manage this for you, sending out your info and keeping track of replies. That's a huge help, and you probably don't have time, but still want to keep in touch.

6. Get prayer support. This is incredibly important.

7. Do your research. The more you are informed, the better questions you can ask, and the more intelligently you are able to explore your treatment options.

8. Don't take over. No matter how impaired your loved one is, except in the most extreme cases, they have an opinion and can make choices. Both of you will be happier if you let that happen.

If you are a wife and a caregiver, you are walking a tenuous tightrope. However, you are also the most important support and cheerleader your loved one has.

 You are needed.

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