5 Secrets From Expert Caregivers

Some people have it figured out.  I have spoken with several family caregivers over the years.  They hold special power to connect.

They are able to cook that extra meal when they’re too tired to stand.  They are able to ask the doctor to hold off on another round of tests when they’re not warranted.  They know when to call a family member to get someone to come over so they can take a couple hour nap.

Many of them have been caregivers for years.  They use the same approach to provide excellent care while not losing their minds.

Implement these principles in your own life today and you will see significant results.  Within a day you will have more time for your loved one.


Secret #1 – Witnessing Not Fixing 

Most people approach caregiving with a fixer’s mentality.  It makes sense.  That’s what we do in the real world.  We build careers.  We help friends.  We fix problems.

Expert caregivers know that witnessing a loved one’s experience is often the most useful.  Many parts of illness cannot be fixed.  What the ill want more than anything is to feel normal.

What does witnessing mean?  It means to be present.  It means to sit next to your loved one in their pain and hold their hand.  It means to help them write letters to their kids.  It means to cry with them.

This sounds easy but it is profoundly hard.  It’s counter to how our brain works.  When you see someone in pain you want to help.  To sit in not knowing and to sit with the pain they are feeling takes immense patience and compassion.


Secret #2 – Honest Discussion 

If you ever meet a hospice worker you will be amazed by their ability to comfortably speak with loved ones about death.  They are direct and kind.  They don’t beat around the bush.

Often new caregivers struggle to ask difficult but important questions.  “Do you feel pain?” or “How do you feel about not being able to get down the stairs?”  Simple statements like saying “I love you” can feel overwhelming.

Experts don’t shy away.  They look a loved one in the eye and say, “can I help you write a note to your husband?”  They ask, “do you need help getting to the bathroom?”  They look their loved one in the eye and say “you mean a great deal to me.”


Secret #3 – Humor 

Expert caregivers are funny.  They find humor in everyday life.  They joke about forgetting their keys or the dog breaking for freedom out the back door.

They find an appropriate way to share humorous moments with the ill loved one.  It may be as simple as laughing about treatment or a wacky doctor.  Humor changes perspective and they know that.

I heard someone describe a caregiver I admired once as, “she wears life like it’s lose clothing.”  This is the key.  To take your role seriously but easily adjust if changes come up.


Secret #4 – Gentle With Themselves 

Death and illness strip away a great deal of what doesn’t matter.  One area in particular is self loathing.  Expert caregivers learn to treat themselves well.  For example, they know it’s critical to rest to be able to offer the support their loved one needs.

They push themselves hard.  They don’t hide from the enormity of an illness or someone’s suffering.  In fact, they are often the strongest advocate for the ill individual with a doctor or challenging family member.

Expert caregivers sleep, have a support network, eat well, take vacations, celebrate their victories, and appreciate their hard work.


Secret #5 – Letting Go 

The serenity prayer is a prayer written by an American theologian which was adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and all 12 step programs.  “God, grant me the serenity to accept to the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Expert caregivers are realistic about what they can’t control.  Expert caregivers know they can’t make someone healthy.  They accept that family members getting angry is often out of their control.  They accept chemo days will be difficult.

Instead they focus on what they can influence.  They cook a meal or wash sheets.  They take a family member out for a meal.  They tell their loved one a funny joke.

They focus on what they can do and let go of the rest.

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Published: June 4, 2015
By: JP Adams

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