X is for eXpert. (Okay, I cheated a bit. X is hard.)
When you become a care partner, it's often a new, unfamiliar world. The role sometimes is thrust upon you with little notice, and you look to all kinds of sources for help. Doctors speak a different language which is difficult to understand, especially when they talk about different drugs. You may discover there are more kinds of specialists than you ever knew possible. Then there is equipment--hearing aides, walkers, wheelchairs, glasses, electric beds, electric chairs. Each one requires a level of expertise.
What about learning about dementia? There is a world of knowledge to be gained, and a multitude of websites, books and articles. Experts everywhere. When you are looking for answers to your situation, you often find conflicting views. How do you know if you are doing or saying the right thing?
If you've been reading my blog and the care partner's alphabet for a while, maybe you are thinking of me as an expert. Believe me, I'm not. I have experience and suggestions, but I am no expert.
There is an expert that you need to listen to, though. Someone who knows more about your loved one than anyone else, and who can make decisions based on knowledge, history and love.
That expert is you.
You know your loved one. You know their personality, how they like their coffee, and if the pillows should be soft and the windows open. You may be unsure about their disease and how they are acting now, but you know who they were, which has a significant influence on who they are now.
Here are a few eXpert tips:
1. Share your knowledge with others who care for your loved one. They need to know what was important to them in the past in order to relate to them in the present.
2. Listen to the experts who are caring for your loved one. They have valuable knowledge and input. Some of what they know could make your family member's life better and easier, and yours as well. But don't be pressured or belittled. They may be the experts in their field, but at the end of the day, you are the expert in the person you care for.
3. Realise that people change. They grow and make different choices. Don't say, "This isn't the father I knew," but rather get to know new things about him. Twenty years ago, I loved geese. I had a goose border on my wall, geese dishes, a sweater with geese knitted in the pattern on the front. There were geese everywhere in my house. Today, there isn't one. I grew out of the geese phase. Be open to your loved one making a different choice from the one you might have expected. Become the expert on who they are today.
You may not always make the right decisions or choose the right product or read the right book. But you are an eXpert in the person you have chosen to care for.