[by Joanne Reynolds]
Do you know whether or not you’re a caregiver?
That seems like a ridiculous question, but sometimes you can be a caregiver without realizing it. For me, a caregiver is anyone who makes time on a regular basis to care for someone who’s ill, injured or suffering from a chronic condition.
The most clear example is the spouse of a dementia patient. That person is a caregiver 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s pretty obvious.
But sometimes the role of caregiver is less clear.
For instance, my friend’s parent are in their 90s. The dad is in either the beginning stages of dementia, (initial assessment), or suffering from normal mental decline appropriate to his age (a second opinion). The mom’s sister, who is in the early stages of dementia, came for a visit, and due to some physical complaints was diagnosed with cancer. The family decided to keep the aunt living with the parents while she underwent chemotherapy and radiation.
My friend is worried about her mom who’s caring for her sister and her husband. I think she also ought to be concerned about herself because she’s the second-level caregiver, organizing a small team of volunteers and jumping in herself to help her mom out when she’s taking either her sister or husband to their various medical appointments.
When I asked her about her self-care plans she gave me a blank look. “I’m not the caregiver, I don’t have the same problems that my mom does,” she said. She’s right, of course. Her mom is the primary caregiver and is shouldering the largest part of the burden. But my friend is not free from the physical, emotional and spiritual demands of the situation. Caring for her mom, organizing the team of volunteers, fretting over the state of her dad’s health and now her aunt’s status, she needs the same self-care plan that the primary caregiver does.
Does this sound like you or someone you know? You’re a caregivers when you’re caring for the caregiver. Expand your understanding of what it means to be a caregiver and accept the possibility that while you’re not the main or primary caregiver, you still need to take care of yourself.
If you want more information on self care, look for Search for Light: Ten Crucial Lessons for Caregivers and its supplement, the Blueprint for Caregiving series at www.blueprintforcaregiving.com .