( By Sangeeta S. Bhagwat )

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If you are a caregiver, for a chronic disease patient, more likely than not, it will be by conscious choice. Those who are forced into this role by circumstance, accident or obligation, eventually find a way to relieve themselves of this responsibility.

The caregiver is usually the person closest to the patient. The person most motivated to try and alleviate the patient's mental and physical suffering. To this end, you will probably be willing to stretch your own mental, physical and spiritual resources to the maximum.

Occasionally, the caregiver's duties could overlap the functions of the attendant, nurse or even the doctor. However, the thrust of your purpose is different. It is not limited to the obvious, menial tasks or chores that a patient may require assistance with.

The caregiver helps the patient form a competent team of people, who work together, towards the improvement of the patient's health and well-being. The patient is at the core of this group. The doctors, nursing staff, attendants, support groups, medical social worker, helpful family and friends make up the rest. You play the important part of linking together all these people, in a cohesive and advantageous fashion. You help improve the rapport and communication, amongst the patient and others.

As a caregiver, your lending moral, spiritual and philosophical strength, will be of equal importance, to the physical support that you provide. You become the one responsible for reminding the patient of all the reasons to live well. The caregiver's attitude and bearing can significantly influence the patient. It can encourage him to fight his disease, to the best of his abilities. Conversely, a resigned, depressed caregiver can increase the patient's guilt and despondency.

Hence, this is a role which requires conscious effort and understanding.

Based upon my personal experience of 13 years, as also that of the other patients, caregivers and medical workers that I interacted with during this time, I first wrote "It's Your Life - A Practical Handbook for Chronic Ailments". I suggest that the caregiver read that book as well. To avoid repetition, I have omitted material already covered there. However, it is likely to be useful and relevant for the caregiver too.

In addition, the following is what I found worked best, for the caregiver herself.

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