Calling all caregivers: Do you know your own talents?

Heather Jose

Welcome back! I’m Heather Jose, your host at WeAreCaregivers. Last week, I introduced myself and two of our other authors: Suzy Farbman and Dr. Benjamin Pratt. This week, I want to share with you some of the wisdom you will find each week at WeAreCaregivers. Here’s the first bit of wisdom: We all need to slow down, if that’s possible in our hectic lives, and take this one step at a time. Today, ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm writes about why simply slowing down and getting to know each other is one of the most important things we can do to help the world right now. That’s my advice for caregivers. We can’t hope to do this alone. We need each other.

Next, I’m making a personal appeal today: If you’re among America’s 65 million caregivers—or you know a caregiver—keep in touch with me.

Keep in Touch with Me
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CLICK the green button at right and choose the free WeAreCaregivers newsletter. Sign up via email (you can cancel any time). By getting my Tuesday newsletter, you won’t miss a column, a fresh idea, a chance to help others—and you’ll lift your own spirits as well.

Caregiving is not easy. You may have your daily tasks well in hand—but who gets the call when some new need arises? Who is responsible? You. To be at your best you need to meet your own needs on a regular basis. This is a matter of determining what makes you feel good, what renews your spirits. I like coffee from a real mug while sitting in my Adirondack chair and looking at my flowers. I also like how I feel after I have made time to workout. In order to complete the marathon you have undertaken—take care of yourself!

DO YOU KNOW YOUR OWN TALENTS? REMEMBER THESE 3 THINGS

Here’s a piece of wisdom you can print out and stick on your refrigerator or office wall: As caregivers, we often forget our own talents in the midst of all the daily tasks we have to shoulder. Remember that we all have these three talents …

WE ARE EARS. Here’s just one example: At a doctor’s appointment, an extra set of ears is a good idea. Patients are often what I call “hyperhearers,” meaning that we only hear certain statements and fail to retain any other information. There have been many times after a meeting with my oncologist when my husband and I have compared notes and found that we heard very different things. He is more factual; I am more emotional. I would have been missing some crucial pieces of information at times without my extra ears.

WE ARE VOICE. What we say matters. Think about taking your loved one for a medical test at a clinic or a stay at a hospital. These experiences are emotional and often times taxing. While some tests and hospital visits are quick, many of them require multiple steps and hours of waiting, sometimes more than one day. Unfortunately, when it’s time for a medical test, I don’t find the techs to be overly sympathetic to the fact that test results matter to patients. It is nice to have someone to mull over concerns with you. During a hospital visit, days grow very long and spirits sink without a supportive voice.

WE ARE ARMS. As caregivers, we understand that we are arms and legs and strong backs for our loved ones. But stop and think about the many ways our arms help others. Sometimes, our arms become extended arms, showing concern even if our loved ones wind up in a hospital or other care facility. When someone enters a hospital, having a caregiver around as much as possible is a bonus. It need not be the same person all the time. This may be a good time to enlist your entire support network. I have found that the staff’s perception of a patient changes when they can see the patient as a “real person” with friends and relatives around them. Those are your extended arms at work. As a healthcare provider myself, I know that the more I get to know people, the more willing I am to do something extra for them. It’s human nature.

FINALLY, I invite you to print out this column, cut out the reminder box and post it somewhere you’ll see it at least once a day.