If you have taken on an unpaid caregiver role for an ill family or friend, you are not alone. In 2015, a National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study showed that about 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months.
This is sponsored content written by me in partnership with Depend® brand. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
In July of 2016, my mother was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. My sister, brother and I each lived more than 6 hours away in different states. I am the oldest child with the most flexible work and home schedule. It made sense for me to take on a role as part of her primary caregiving team and I was honored to do it. I learned a few things that every caregiver needs to know. Hopefully, you can garner some tips and tricks to help you in your current or future caregiving role.
Give Yourself a Break
You probably already know I am a huge advocate for self-care. Women typically take on many responsibilities as part of any family dynamic. No matter what your caregiving scenario is, you need to give yourself grace. Being a caregiver is a demanding and emotional role. No one will ever be perfect at it. Giving your best has to be good enough. Please remember to take care of your own health, wellness, and emotional needs along the way.
Questions Every Caregiver Needs to Ask
Asking a few simple questions as early as possible can help alleviate stress and needless conflict along the way.
- Can other friends or family give additional care?
- Is there community or government agencies that provide care assistance?
- What financial resources are available?
- Does my loved one need more help than I can provide?
- What wishes does my loved one want me to follow?
Yes, that old Girl Scout model pertains to your adult life, too. As our loved one ages or their disease progresses, changes will be inevitable. Memory loss, incontinence, and mood swings are just a few of the conditions you may experience in your caregiving journey. Being prepared before, during and after those situations will make life easier.
As my mom’s cancer progressed, the side effects of treatments and medications started to wear her body down. As you go through these stages you want your loved one to be comfortable, but continue to live life as they choose. Incontinence was something we had to face early on. I was grateful that Depend® FIT-FLEX Underwear made it possible for mom to continue to do the things she loved with confidence. I used what I like to call a “caregiver bag.” Before we left the house, any needed supplies for the day were stocked in the bag and out the door we went.
The garments look like real underwear, so they were in the “caregiver bag” with a change of clothing, just in case. Depend FIT-FLEX Underwear provides a better fit for all body shapes and sizes, and has an improved waistband, allowing your loved one to feel comfortable and protected from leaks. Mom and I could head out to her favorite thrift store and use her coupons at the grocery store without worries of leaks and unpleasant accidents.
Write it Down
Find yourself a notebook that fits in your purse or “caregiver bag,” and be sure take it out each time you need it. Write down appointments, medicines, symptoms, and questions. Anything that comes up can be added to the notebook so you have it for reference. All of the back and forth can get confusing. Not just for your loved one, but for you, too. My caregiver journal was an invaluable tool.
It’s Worth It
It’s likely you will ride an emotional rollercoaster throughout your caregiver journey. Please be gentle with yourself. Being a caregiver will be one of the most rewarding experiences you have the privilege to experience. Assisting and caring for a loved one will be something you never regret.