Part 1 of “The Unexpected Journey”
It started as a short stint in the hospital, followed by the need for some rehabilitative care upon returning home. It didn’t seem too complicated or onerous, so you of course volunteered to do what was needed rather than seek out a professional caregiver. Your family isn’t made of money, after all…and besides, you wanted to do it.
You thought the extra responsibilities would be manageable, and the disruption to your life wouldn’t be too traumatic…or too long…or too hard. It didn’t turn out quite the way you expected, though.
You love your parents (or spouse, or adult child, or whatever the case may be), but something has shifted. It’s no longer about loving someone enough, it’s about you still being able to live a life that is not totally consumed by another person’s physical upkeep or health needs.
When we’re parents caring for our young children, there is an expectation that they will become increasingly capable and independent, and thereby need us less and less. However, when dealing with an aging parent, or a spouse who has become disabled or infirmed, the very opposite is true. We see ahead of us the long stretch of time, energy and care that is required and that there’s no one else around to step in and provide relief.
5 Basic Questions To Ask (…and yes, I know there are many more!)
- What is the time frame for recovery? Will there be different care needs at different stages of that period? And what had you previously envisioned for your own life over that same time frame?
- What are this person’s care needs? Be realistic and specific. Include future doctor and therapy appointments as well as anticipated medication refills, etc. – anything that will require your time and an entry on your to-do list.What special equipment will be needed at home, if any? What physical or occupational therapy exercises will you need to help with, if any? Be sure to list how many, how often, and the duration of all those activities so you have an accurate picture of the time commitment involved.
- What are your own needs? Include any meditation, exercise or other self-care regimen you are committed to – or want to going forward! – your work schedule, responsibilities for immediate family members, and any community responsibilities, social commitments, etc.
- Who is in your support network? Who else is already involved, or needs to be, in this person’s care? Include family members, volunteers from religious or community affiliations, and professionals such as aides, physical therapists, etc.
- What are the care recipient’s financial obligations going forward? If this person is one of your parents, do you know what their financial situation is? Are the requisite legal documents all up to date and easily accessible? This needs to include a medical directive, durable power of attorney for healthcare & HIPPA, durable power of attorney for finances, a living trust and a will.
Once you have the sort of logistical clarity this detailed inquiry will provide, you will be ready to “fill in the blanks” wherever there are sticking points in your emotional and psychological preparedness to be their caregiver.
Next week I will give you a step-by-step process similar to what I teach in my Take Back Your Life: The Art of Self-Care groups, though not quite as in-depth, for ensuring that you and your needs are not getting de-prioritized – or completely lost and forgotten! – in the caregiver / care recipient dynamic.
Until then, stay in this place of inquiry and definition of needs and requirements. Get as clear as you can about what everyone’s needs are in the situations, and which requests are actually wants, and not needs.
That thoughtful preparation will set you up perfectly for using the steps I’ll share with you next week. Until then, be sure to BREATHE!
Need additional, immediate support or guidance on your journey? E-mail me with your questions or concerns at: Loren@LorenGelbergGoff.com and get the help you need and deserve! (and we breathe)