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Remaining Sane: Some Thoughts and Tips for Caregivers

First, a disclaimer: there are a lot of people who work a lot harder than I do as a caregiver. In fact, most caregivers don't even realize they're caregivers. It's like that frog-in-boiling-water syndrome; you don't realize what's happened until well past tea time. (Okay, that was a terrible analogy, and perhaps even a mixed metaphor. Forgive me.)

My situation is temporary. I’m taking care of a teen post-surgery and helping out a parent pre-surgery. But I’m learning a few things and I thought I’d write them down. If you are a fellow frog, it’s tea time. Please share your thoughts by submitting a comment.

1. Get up earlier than the person you’re caring for. Make yourself a cup of coffee. This is the equivalent of the flight attendant telling you to put on your air mask first, before you attend to your child. It’s the safest protocol for everyone.

2. This is the most important thing, and it’s counter-intuitive: Slow the hell down. Slow down. Just slow down. Be in the moment with each person you’re with, whether you’re trying to take care of them or they’re trying to take care of you. This isn’t easy. There’s so much to do that you don’t even have time to make a list. And that’s what makes it so very important to be methodical, almost Zen in your movements and attitude.

3. Since the above is hard to achieve except in fleeting moments, forgive yourself when you mess up things like laundry, or mailing a package on time, or forgetting what day it is. These are logistical issues that won’t matter in time. (And what is time? And what time is it, exactly?)

4. When it comes to dispensing prescriptions, you can’t make mistakes. (See Item 2.) Slow down. Write down the dosage. Double check. Pour a glass of water for yourself and look again before dispensing.

5. When you get frustrated, remind yourself that you’re either paying it back or paying it forward. This is for the times when someone took care of you (perhaps the very same someone you are caring for now), and/or for the times to come when you cannot take care of yourself. The beautiful thing is that it’s not a transaction, because you may never be in a position to need a caregiver, in which case you should consider yourself very lucky indeed.
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