By Stephen W.
My wife was diagnosed with ET (Essential Thrombocythemia) in 2007. Since then, her health issues have varied. For several months, she will do very well with little to no problems, and then an episode that has included an ER visit on occasion, will throw us into action mode. Even our children know what is expected of them. We all becoming a caregiving team.
Caregiving has many layers. It requires endurance, listening skills, humility, open mindedness, flexibility, wisdom, empathy, managerial skills, problem solving skills, healthy choices, rest, outlets, support and in many ways, the needs similar to those we care for, except that we have to be willing to be the strength BEHIND the patient.
Endurance. There will be days when the one you are caring for requires everything you’ve got. It is easy to get burnt out. You may find yourself doing it all and feeling a bit resentful, at times. My suggestion is to get a backup caregiver. So many people offer help and we graciously decline with a thank you and assurance that we are okay. I now say, thank you and how can you help? Getting help doesn’t mean you are shrugging your responsibilities or care less about your loved one. It is a wise decision when times are tough. Sometimes just having someone grocery shop is a great gift.
Humility. Caregiving is not about you. I’ve learned to keep my place and learn from my wife and those that administer her medical care. I don’t have all the answers. My role is vital but there is no room for an ego.
Managerial skills. I never dreamed the managerial skills I learned in my career would come in handy for caregiving. Managing appointments, medical needs, insurance companies, children, household needs, and day to day care for the patient can be overwhelming without a system. When times are tough we run a tight ship with each of us knowing our role and responsibilities. Delegating is a way of life. We’ve learned to adjust quickly and as needed.
Keeping EVERYONE healthy. Parenting and caregiving for an adult are very similar. If we aren’t healthy, everyone suffers. Proper nutrition, exercise, rest, and finding outlets and support are essential. Recognize when you need a break and take it.
The Rewards. I’ve never felt closer to my wife. Our family is stronger and we know we can rely on one another. I’ve learned a lot about ET, but equally about life and love.