By Gary Barg, Editor-in-Chief caregiver.com
1. Keep a journal. Start today. Describe your fears as well as your hopes, the reality of what each day is like. Do not be afraid to write about the losses, big or small.
2. Stick with your journal. Let yourself record the little victories, go back and review the earlier months and years. Notice the personal, physical, emotional goals and successes you and your loved one have achieved.
3. Create a simple communication network. Think of this as a designated communicator. Choose a friend or relative who will make all the calls and tell all the news when there are calls to make and news to tell. You might want to save the “big successes and wonderful news” sharing for yourself, but you will be worn out if you are constantly on the phone retelling the details of the last days or weeks over and over.
4. Let your friends help you. When someone asks, “Can I do anything for you?” give him or her something to do. Let your friend run an errand or stay with your loved one while you take a break and get out on your own.
5. Visit with people you love. You may often have to ask your friends or family to come to your house or keep you company while waiting for your loved one’s treatment to be over. You need to be a whole person who has friends and interests and can think about something besides the responsibilities of caregiving. You should not have to reinvent your life when your caregiving responsibilities subside.
6. Stay involved in your loved one’s personal life. Be careful that your loved one does not slip from the role of loved one, family member, friend into the role of patient. Do not let yourselves lose the relationship you had prior to the need for caregiving.
7. Talk about it! There are innumerable fears and anxieties associated with any illness or disease, which can and will tear a person apart. Talk to your friends and your loved one about your feelings. The worst thing you can do is build a wall around yourself to protect others.
8. Keep the romance alive. Couples facing caregiving situations are apt to forget to nurture the relationship that brought them together up until this point. These relationships need just as much, if not more attention, now that one of you is ill, than they did before.
9. Include your loved one in your changes. As time passes we all change in small and big ways. If you find a new friend, discover an interest in a new genre of books or music, find a new recipe or a great place to eat, share these as much as possible with your loved one. Introduce your new friends, have them visit, if your loved one cannot easily leave the house. Spend time reading the new books aloud, listen to the new music together.
10. Keep setting goals. Before you were a caregiver, you set personal goals. Your life did not end because you became a caregiver. When the caregiver duties subside, you should not “Return” to your life, you should continue with your life.