Caregivers of the World, I salute you. The world is a better place because of you who make it your business to take care of loved ones, neighbors, and friends who are in physical need of a helping hand. During the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I have focused my column on the remarkable stories and miracles experienced by my friends who have been diagnosed with this awful disease. Today, I want to shine a light on those who take care of them.
In my own personal experience, I have been on both the giving and receiving end of caregiving, so, the subject is a dear one to me. I will be forever grateful to my own family, friends and neighbors, who stepped in to care for me when I was diagnosed with a catastrophic illness many years ago. I am also grateful that, later, after regaining my health, I was able to care for my mother-in-law when she was in need.
I have seen first-hand, how necessary the role of caregiver is, and have experienced the myriad of emotions associated with it. It’s complicated. It’s not easy, and, in most cases, it isn’t exactly what you had planned on doing when you were thinking about your future goals and dreams. As difficult and scary as caregiving can be, it can also be one of those most humbling, and honoring life experiences both patient and caregiver alike will have.
This has been the experience of Janette Taylor, a young Army veteran, who finds herself in a caregiving role. When not caring for physical therapy patients at Stonebridge Bodyworks, Janette cares for her mother, a cancer survivor, as well as her father, who has health challenges of his own. While this isn’t exactly where Taylor pictured herself post active-duty, she is grateful for the opportunity to serve and be available to her family.
“I credit my faith in God for making me strong enough to do this,” says Taylor, “My faith in God also helps my mother stay strong, and encourages her to make it through too.”
Taylor points out to others who find themselves in a caregiving role, the importance of taking timeout to care for oneself. Caregiving takes a toll, so it is imperative to know your limits, and be kind to yourself.
Some tips to keep in mind, according to the National Family Caregivers Association are, to take respite breaks often, and be aware of the signs of depression. Seek professional help if necessary. When others offer to help, accept it. Grieve your losses, then, allow yourself to dream new dreams. Seek support from other caregivers. There is strength in knowing you are not alone.
Finally, be aware of the difference between caring and doing, and stay open to those things that promote a loved one’s independence. Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition and how to effectively communicate with doctors, and trust your instincts. Most of the time, they will lead you in the right direction.
The definition of the word caring is “exhibiting and feeling concern and empathy for others”. Thank you Caregivers, for doing so. Carpe Diem Y’all, Michele