As we continue to explore the roles of the caregiver it’s important that you really take each part separately and think about what it means to you. I hope that you will be able to identify those parts of the “caregiver you” and see where you identify and where you disagree because that’s what makes the dialogue richer. Thus far we’ve discussed caregiver courage and the caregiver as ally. Today we’re on “R”
R is for Responsible
It shouldn’t be a surprise that when we discuss caregiving that responsibility is that the head of the class. It’s the one attribute or characteristic that most identifies you as a caregiver. When the person you love is diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness, after the shock you begin to see the fallout. The fallout, just like in an atomic bomb, is that mushroom cloud that peaks in the sky and then falls out and over everything under that cloud.
When the diagnosis and all it entails mushroomed over your life you may have had an idea what caregiving was, but once you entered the caregiving world you see that it’s much more than you anticipated. Responsibility comes up time and time again because as a caregiver you’re like an air traffic controller. You try to keep everything flying in the air without crashing in to one another…that takes talent.
It’s not a surprise that caregivers tend to share similar characteristics. In order of who takes on the caregiver role (in adulthood) we have the spouse, the daughter if there is one, and then the daughter-in-law. Another common characteristic is that caregivers who are caring for their older parents are often first born…often termed the responsible ones. These are just a couple of commonalities. The true commonalities are the ability to organize, be assertive with both the patient and providers, and be willing to utilize these “responsibility” skills to aid in maintaining the best care and highest quality of life for the patient.
Responsibility does not come without a price, so let’s reframe the role of the responsible caregiver for a moment. What if the primary person you were responsible for was you? What if you made sure you ate right and got enough rest so that you could be of greater service with less stress and strain on your physical, emotional, and spiritual being? How would your caregiving role change if you were responsible for you well-being first?
I know it sounds like I’m a heretic, but what I do know is that taking care of yourself is the most responsible thing you can do. It’s about being a role model for the patient who may not always take the best care of themselves. It also means that part of being a “responsible” caregiver is setting limits and being able to say no with authority and conviction. It may be to a medical provider or the patient, family and friends, or others who may be encroaching on your air space.
Caregiving is only going to become more prominent in the next twenty years as the baby boomers hit the stride of their golden years. In addition, many things we didn’t know were toxic twenty years ago are rearing their ugly heads as disease in our bodies; not to mention the increased stress just to survive daily in a world that’s crazy unleashing stress related illness in staggering numbers.
Responsibility as a caregiver doesn’t mean having to do everything for the patient. Being a “responsible” caregiver means you have the capacity and ability to see the big picture. It means that you can set limits so ensure the safety and stability of the person you’re caring for with a health challenge. The “responsible” caregiver is self-loving and self-nurturing.
What part of the responsible caregiver most resonates with you?