THE CAREGIVER'S MANUAL

( By Sangeeta S. Bhagwat )

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m-Take Care of Yourself First

The initial reaction of every involved caregiver, is to stretch one's own mental and physical abilities, to breaking point.




  • There is a hidden irony in this. The primary aim of any caregiver-patient team, would be to maximize well being and longevity of the patient. If you are expecting to succeed in this endeavor, it automatically implies a long span as a caregiver. No person can go for very long periods of time, by neglecting their own welfare. The irony lies in choosing short-term exhaustion over long-term goals.


  • Pace yourself out. Chronic disease is a long haul. Feeling guilty about caring about yourself, or being emotionally wrought, will only weaken your own physical status.


  • Ensure that you are eating quality, nutritious food, at regular times. Without fuel, you cannot possibly stand up to all the extra work. Do not confuse the patient's diet restrictions, with what would be good for you. Many caregivers try and switch over to the patient's diet, because of feeling bad or guilty, that the patient has certain restrictions. This may be harmful to your well being. Besides, if you have clarified the roles, you will understand that your abstinence is not helping the patient. It is only making both of you feel sorry about giving up something you may have enjoyed before.


  • Try and work some exercise into your schedule. Physical activity is a good way to burn stress and rest the "worry muscles" as well. It also improves stamina.


  • Fortify your mind. Seek assistance in faith, religion, spirituality, family or community. The stronger you become, the more support you can lend to your loved one. Tough times are a frequent part of chronic illness. The patient is physically sapped and may often lose will and hope. You have to be well prepared for such occasions. Only if you are inherently composed and capable, can you offer strength, support and determination to fight the disease.


  • Try to take a regular break. You can choose a creative hobby, reading, music, meditation or simply a soak in a hot bath. Whatever relaxes and rejuvenates you. This may only be fifteen minutes in a day, but you need to make some time for yourself too. If you are able to take a few hours out for yourself, in a week or month, do it. Do not hesitate. It is imperative to give yourself time to heal and process your own emotions.


  • Even one of you maintaining some touch with "normal life", makes it possible to imagine achieving it again.

Very often, both patient and caregiver, are pulled into a vortex of disease related activity. The actual treatment and medicine regime, information seeking, interaction with medical workers, fund planning, physical exhaustion, all are to be dealt with, over and above the symptoms themselves. This all leaves very little time, energy and enthusiasm for anything outside of this realm. However, if you make a conscious effort to retain normalcy, you will continue to be hopeful of returning your patient to this normalcy too. If you lose all hope and aspiration yourself, how are you going to motivate your patient?


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