When our life is turned over by health issues, we grasp for someone close to help us with the unwanted and most likely unknown journey that we are about to embark on. We often turn to our spouse, parents, children, or even siblings to be our caregiver. We don’t know what our journey is about to look like and we have less understanding of what our caregiver’s path will look like alongside us, but we tend to seek of someone who we connect with the most.
It can be a great solution to turn to a family member, but it doesn’t always have to be the only solution. You may have a close friend or a neighbor that can be that constant partner within your new health journey. To ask someone to take on the responsibilities of a caregiver should never be taken lightly. Sometimes we get so focused on the whirlwind of what has happened to us that a caregiver just comes out of that storm – someone who just keeps showing up, this may or may not be the right person by your side. So how can we really find the best caregiver for your journey, to make sure that your journey is the best for you? Below are some aspects that make up a great caregiver.
Know that it is so important to find one person who can be your person through this journey. If you don’t feel comfortable or feel that you have that one person in your life, there are other alternatives to keep you standing and moving forward to the best of your abilities. Some tools or resources include; transportation, counseling or support groups, financial advisors, and much more. No matter your choice in how you pursue a healthcare partner within this process, make sure that you are able to find the right fit for you.
What is a caregiver?
The formal definition of a caregiver;
Caregiver – Someone who can regularly provide support, care, guidance, and assistance to someone who is in need.
Caregivers can be pulled from all different aspects of your life, but typically you have one or at most a handful of people you can rely on a hundred percent to be a part of the intimate details of the journey you are walking along with chronic illness. A caregiver is someone who is willing to provide what you need them to within this journey. Some roles that they may do include: going to appointments with you, providing transportation to places for you, being an extra set of ears, depending on your situation providing shelter and food, offering support for your decisions, and a continuous amount of work they play into each step that I couldn’t write down. Depending on how much they can give, along with what you may need from them, will create a different definition of what a caregiver is to you within your life. Depending on the journey you come upon you may need them to play different roles, during different parts.
What are some characteristics of a great caregiver?
When seeking out who should be your caregiver or health partner within the journey of chronic illness there are certain aspects that should be considered. Note you may not agree with all these, or have additional ones to add, so please let me know your thoughts in the comment section of this article! Below is a list of some things to think about when finding that right person for you!
Great caregiver qualities:
– Someone who has the ability to recognize that it is your health journey. Meaning that their insight is greatly appreciated and considered, but ultimately they do not have control over your path and process.
– Someone who is willing to take the time to do things right, rather than just getting it over. Along the journey there will be times when a wait is required, therefore having someone who is patient is important, because even if you can’t be they will be that for you
– Someone who is willing to disrupt their regular routine to take care of you. Within the health care process, there will be certain moments that require your caregiver to be available to you. No matter who your caregiver is, chances are they have other aspects of their life they need to maintain and take care of, so figuring out someone who is willing to work with those other life demands will be helpful to make your process and their contribution to the process a lot smoother.
– Someone who is financially able. Depending on your need of the caregiver not only could you need them for certain financial reasons, but also no matter the process will cost them on some level. They need to figure out if they can pay for the things you need, which may include; time off from work, expenses of transportation, housing, etc. You may be in a situation where you could also pay for their expenses to help you. This is potentially an ongoing discussion that you will have to have with them, about what they are willing to offer and what you can provide.
– Someone who is doing it for the right reasons. I hate to say it, but not everyone has the best intentions if they are doing it to be an advocate for you make sure that you trust them completely with your life.
– Someone who can be a great advocate for you. Depending on the role you decide your caregiver to play they may or may not be in the doctor visits with you. If you choose for them to be a voice within your health care it is important that they have your best interest, by listening to what the doctors say, able to understand their language and to be able to ask the right questions and make sure that they can be that partner to have a conversation with you rather than for you.
– Someone you are comfortable to talk in front of about your most intimate details of life. This is the hardest part because sometimes going to the doctor you feel that you are placing all your faults or life details on the table. With a caregiver in the room, you will be sharing it in front of them, potentially more than once with some of the most unflattering details of our life. Never underestimate what you may share. To help prevent a complete discomfort with some topics within the room, maybe talk about it with your caregiver pre-visit so they don’t have to deal with the shock while they are supposed to be helping you by paying attention to the doctors. Some things, of course, don’t have to be discussed and it is purely based on you, which goes to our next point.
– Someone you can set limits with. Decide if you want them to go in with you to appointments or just drive you. Have someone that you can change your mind with at any point and trust to do so. This is your experience and your path with health care and figuring out what your life looks like.
– Someone who can step up to the plate. This is harder to ask than you would think because we don’t all know what this looks like. Your caregiver needs to be someone who can put their anger or upset or whatever aside when at your appointments and the short time you get with this process. No matter what happens they need to be able to come to the present fully and be a part of figuring out the best path for you.
– Someone who is able to take rejection. You can always choose a caregiver and have a trial period with it. No matter what your relationship was with this person prior you should be able to change if you don’t feel that they are best suited for the position, no matter how long they have been your health care partner.
You ultimately need to find someone who is the best advocate for you, alongside you.
What can we do for our caregivers?
Caregivers are an amazing part of our lives, but you are one piece of their life, meaning they also need to take care of them and the world that is around them. Set up boundaries with your caregiver that not only are great for you but great for them making it a relationship that is good for both of you. Although we rely on them more than we like to admit, we each need to be taking steps to take care of our self, including our caregivers.
We don’t need a caregiver until we are ten steps within the journey already. The person who you decide to be your caregiver is key to how your journey will go. Take your time and continue to keep the line of conversation open between you and your caregiver(s). Always make sure to ask questions and be open with them about what you need, figuring out if you two are suited for your health care journey. You deserve the best care and your caregiver is a key part of your journey!
My question to you!
What is the most important character trait of a caregiver to you?
T r u l y , L i n d y
photo source: @LindyJacoby