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Tips for Caregivers

Over the last 5 years, I was the main caregiver for my parents as their health declined. Being a caregiver for someone you love means being there for them in every way they need.

You're their patient advocate during doctor & hospital visits.

You're their therapist as they vent their frustrations, sadness, depression because their body works against them and they cannot do things they love anymore.

You're their #1 cheerleader, encouraging them to find some happy moments during their end of life process; calling family and friends to visit them; bringing their favorite foods, puzzles, books.

You're their financial advocate: paying bills, working with health insurance companies & doctors, hospitals, rehab centers to ensure medical providers & insurance companies are charging appropriately. Taking care of other expenses and protecting their finances.

You're their "mom": ensuring they eat, take vitamins, supplements to keep their body strength up.

All the while, you're their daughter or son knowing you won't have much more time with them. Then they will be gone. So you're dealing with your sadness too. But your sadness, emotions must wait. You cannot show your sadness while helping them.

You want to spend quality time with them, talk to them as people, talk to them soulfully, tell them how much you love them, how grateful you are for their presence in your life.

You wake up every morning wanting to tell them that. Wanting to just "be" with them. Then they have another medical emergency & you immediately become their patient advocate, not their son or daughter.

The day ends at the hospital where your loved one sleeps after a long day of tests, physical pain and emotional depression. You watch him/her from a cot in their room. While reading today's report of what they did and new drugs prescribed, researching side effects of those drugs, remembering you hadn't eaten since 8am that morning. Completely exhausted, you remember your first thought that morning: wanting quality time with your loved one. Today was not the day. Other days, you wake up wanting to "be" with them, but you neglected your own responsibilities and must spend that day working, taking care of your life, home, other responsibilities. By mid-day, you remember to take care of something else for your loved one. So you do that. Then you talk to your loved one. He/she is depressed, sad, in pain or frustrated. You become his/her therapist. By 4p that day, you're exhausted again. Then the day passes. Another day wasted.

The next morning, the cycle continues. Whether another health scare-crisis, another "to-do" crisis in your own life or you finally slump from exhaustion and cannot do much that day.

Then suddenly, your loved one is gone. Their life and your life with them: gone. All those things you wanted to tell them - no more time left to tell them. All those memories: sweet & bittersweet - that's all you have left. That - and your love for them. Yes, they still exist on "the other plane". Yes, they visit you spiritually. Yes, you still love them. Yes, they still love you. But it's not the same. And you feel empty.

Over the last 5 years, I cared for my parents this way. Moved 5 times to be close to them & help them: 2 moves from AZ to TX where they lived the last 3 yrs of their life; then 2 moves back to AZ.

I closed my business for several months at a time each year since 2013, not taking clients, not collecting an income. Up to 6 months per year. Since February 2013. Caring for them was my #1 priority. It was where I wanted to be: helping them, advocating for them.

My father died March 14, 2016. My mother died 6 months ago: November 11, 2017. They were married 56 years when my father died. My mom was not the same after his death. Neither was I. They are together again now. They are soulmates. They taught me so much about love, how to love someone, what commitment truly means. I was very lucky they were my role models for marriage and relationships.

My mother & I were both angry after dad's death. He was too healthy to die. His death was preventable. The nursing home overdosed him to keep him in bed. This is very common. Then they prescribed drugs that closed off his throat and he was unable to eat. Ultimately, the nursing home starved him to death. We were too busy helping him, jumping to nursing home's needs and answers, trusting they were truthful. We didn't understand what was going on until it was too late. My mother and I, both red-heads, felt guilty, mad, sad and every other negative emotion. Until the day she died 6 months ago.

After mom died, I finally realized that I wasn't done grieving losses of my father (March 2016) and my brother & sister (1988).

You do whatever necessary for those you love. When you truly love them, you make sacrifices to help them. When you truly love someone, those "sacrifices" aren't really sacrifices at all. They are simply necessary & part of the love process; how you show love.

Another necessary part of the love process - telling them how you feel about them. Taking a moment or two every day to tell them how important they are. When caring for a family member or spouse, you wear many hats. Remember to wear the son, daughter, spouse or sibling hat. Remember to be the same person you were before they took ill. Remember to breathe. Take care of yourself first. Then you'll have more energy and rationale to help them.

In today's world, it's easy to get caught up in "to-do" lists. When you notice your stress level increasing - whether you're caring for a loved one or not - take a break from "to do" and focus on "to love". Spend time doing something you love, telling someone you love them, laughing with someone you love or reminding yourself "I love myself". Especially when you're a caregiver.

Focusing on your "to love" list recharges your batteries. Most times when you love someone, you love them and do for them. Just remember to love them as you "do" for them.

Caregivers often forget to love. They get exhausted by the "to do" list. And forget their "to love" list. Especially with the people they're caring for. Remember your "to love" list. And remember it also applies to you! Go have some fun, balance stress with play.

Take a break, know your limitations, hire or ask for help, don't be a martyr. As a family caregiver, you cannot do it alone. Caring for elderly parents or a sick family member or child - takes more than one person. Don't carry the weight on your shoulders only. Seek assistance.

Passing on what I learned these past 5 years as my parents' caregiver. Sure I regret things I said or didn't say to them. Regret things I did not paying attention to; things that could have made their life easier. Regrets happen.

When you're a caregiver for a family member - don't let regrets taint your future or your grieving process after that loved one dies. Regrets are a natural part of life. Remember they love you now - as much as they ever did. They want you to be happy. Remember they are in a safe, more pleasant place now.

You will miss them. Your heart will break each time you think of them and they're no longer here on Earth. During those dark times, remember they love you back - no matter what you did or didn't do. They're in a place now (after death) where they can help you move forward. Let them. They know everything about you now. Let them help you. As you helped them. Synchronicity.

Your love will shine through. Rainbows rise after a good rain. Being a caregiver is a full-time job. Being a caregiver to someone you love is exhausting. Take a break after the job is over. Be kind & gentle to yourself, even if others don't understand or know what you did. You know. And you know you need a break. After the job is done, take a break, grieve, add fun back into your life. It's the only way back to sanity and a renewed fulfilling life. Be good to yourself as you were to your loved one.

Wisdom from someone who walked it. --- Psychic Robin Amanda

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