Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Carepartner Wednesday--The Carepartner's Alphabet--I

I is for...wait a minute. There's no "I."

Every care partner knows it's a selfless role.  Physically, it can mean sleepless nights and long days. It might mean turning, lifting and caring for another person. Even if the person is cared for by others, there's still making time to visit regularly. Emotionally, you can feel that your heart is being squeezed every time you see the person you love deteriorating. Mentally, you can feel stymied, as the other challenges in life conspire to  dull your brain.

How does a care partner survive?

There are a few basics we've talked about before in your survival kit and one I would like you to think about and put inside.

Unlike most roles in life, you did not choose this. It chose you. In order to run the course and be there when you are needed:

1) Set boundaries (refer to B in the care partner's alphabet.) No matter how much you love the other person, or want to be there for them, there are limits to what you can do. You need to make time for yourself every day and schedule regular respites, where you spend time replenishing. Without that, you will wear yourself out and break down physically and emotionally.

2) On the positive side, talk to someone. Find a friend or someone who will listen and be there for you. You need an outlet to talk about your feelings. If this is someone who understands what you are going through, that's a bonus. However, a friend who loves you and listens will fulfil the same need. When I was caregiver for Bill, none of my peers had ever gone through this experience. I was only 55 and I was the only person I knew younger than 80 with a dying husband. But my good friends listened, took me out to dinner, brought dinner to me, listened some more and loved me. That's what I needed.

3) Get help. If you are in a position where you are sole caregiver, make sure your support systems are in place. There are supports available. Keep asking (your doctor, other care partners, other professionals) until you find what you need.

So here's what I'd like you to think about.

It's easy to say, "The person I loved is no longer here." But they are. There are parts of them that are different, and you will need to work to find ways to relate to the new parts. There may be surprises every day. You may feel that you just get something figured out and it changes.  But, they are there. Look for them.

Look for the sense of humour. Look for things they enjoy. They may be the same things as always (I've noticed the love of ice cream seldom changes) or it might be something new. Or the same but different. Perhaps mother enjoyed walking and can't now, but loves to be taken out in her wheelchair. Try things. If they don't work, laugh and try something else.

Look for the person you love every day.

There is no "I" in care partner in the sense that the role requires selflessness. The "I" is there in the relationship (which does have an "I.") You are still the daughter, the wife, the important person in their life. You have a relationship with that person that involves memories and experiences, past and present. They may not remember, but you do. Celebrate your role with them, and the person they are today. Talk, listen, laugh, smile, hug, love.

Five minutes after you leave, they may not remember that you were there. But the warm feelings of time with you last much longer.

The "I" is in relationship.

photo of letter I-

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