On Tuesday, July 31st at 5:30 PM, I’ll be sharing the message “Caring for the Caregiver - Even When that’s Yourself” at the Rosecrest Community in Inman, SC. The topic is part of a free series of seminars offered to help caregivers. I’m proud to be a part of it. Thankfully, there is a growing trend for support for caregivers, but I do feel we’re far from where we could be as a society and nation in response to the tremendous numbers of caregivers, most of whom are unpaid family members who juggle much more than their role as a caregiver.
Let’s look at the three topics offered in this one series to see how we can broaden our own approach to supporting caregivers in our lives. Any health concern is like the pebble tossed into a pond. The effect ripples outward.
The first session was Dementia and Its Impact. Any diagnosable disease has an impact far beyond that for the patient alone. Let’s look at who might be involved and what their needs might be. A patient can use this as a guide for interacting others or others can use it as a guide for developing their thoughts in how to support those in their lives dealing with these issues. For each of these categories guide your thoughts will a simple fill in the blank. If I were the A of a person diagnosed with B, I would need/want _____.
A1. spouse B1. dementia
A2. child (adult or youth) B2. cancer (seemingly treatable)
A3. only child B3. cancer (untreatable)
A4. grandchild B4. diabetes
A5. extended family member B5. Heart disease/heart attack
A6. employer B6. Stroke
Is it selfish to look at the needs of those who aren’t the person diagnosed? No, it’s realistic. When the whole picture of a person’s life, related to his/her diagnosis of a disease, is looked at and addressed, the patient can receive better care and support. Fears can be relieved and quality of life improved.
Example 1: An elderly widower has just found out he has seemingly treatable cancer. His only child (with a husband, two kids and a full time job) lives 100 miles away.
If you are that adult child, you might want reassurance that you can help meet your parent’s needs while still meeting the needs of your household family. Dad, or his adult child, or the medical care team can take that reality into consideration when moving forward in developing a care plan. The child wants to help but is geographically limited. What resources are available for providing necessary care?
Walking through these scenarios and life realities ahead of time are much better than the alternative: the pain and confusion of finding out out six months (after Dad’s been diagnosed) later when a call comes from Dad’s neighbor saying he’s been hospitalized with a side effect for a treatment you didn’t know he was having for a disease you didn’t know he had. Likely, he didn’t want to ‘worry’ or ‘bother’ you. But now, trying to juggle your love and concern with the class projects, carpool, and work deadline, you’re scrambling to breathe and find a direction.
If you put yourself into the roles and circumstances listed above, you’ll gain an awareness of your own life and how health issues can cause a great impact but you can also see how you may be a caregiver in ways you wouldn’t expect.
Example 2: If you were the employer of a person just diagnosed with diabetes, you’d need to know how it would affect his/her performance.
You run a fairly small company with 40 employees. You find out that your sales manager has diabetes and only came to know it after a weekend visit to an ER. You want 1- to know how to help keep him healthy and on the job, and 2- to support him and his family, and 3 - how to keep your insurance premiums to a minimum, and 4- how to keep sales moving forward.
Don’t worry, I’m not that naïve. I know there are lots of companies where it’s only #3 & #4 that matter to those in charge. But really, the employer is a form of a caregiver because it’s he or she who controls the job that provides your health insurance and the food for your table. Even though detached from the hands on care of taking you to appointments or picking up your prescriptions, he or she is giving care. If you’re the patient, ask the questions to answer your boss’s questions. If you’re the employer, take time to try to see a situation from your employee’s perspective and look at more than a bottom line. By doing so, you might just come up with broader perspectives and plans that help your whole company thrive (flex time options, cross training programs, etc).
Many people are involved when a health threatening diagnosis is made. By putting on the shoes other people will wear in the midst of a health care crisis, or trying on ones you might one day wear, you're better prepared to meet the road of life ahead.
We’ll talk about Caring for the Caregiver more on Tuesday night and I’ll follow up with a post that highlights tips for lightening the load for others - or yourself!