Top Ten Tips to Make a Difference for the Caregiver by Judith Ann Kirk

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In Women
Mar 13th, 2013
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nurseCare giving is exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally. From firsthand experience being the primary caregiver, I truly appreciated the thoughtfulness of many friends and family members. Here are my top ten ideas to make a difference in the caregiver’s life.

  1. Honor and respect the caregiver’s evenings. After a long stressful day in the hospital, I treasured coming home to the peace and quiet of familiar surroundings giving me time to think and work out a few details. I refused to take calls after 8:00 p.m. – the time I normally got home from the hospital. No talking except to the cats and they were content to cuddle on my lap.

  2. Pre-cooked single packaged healthy meals are a blessing. Eating was not even on the radar as I was too tired at night to prepare a meal. A dear friend delivered a week’s worth of pre-cooked single packaged meals so I didn’t even have to think about “what to eat” or be tempted to say, “I’m not hungry.” Everything was right there for me from soup to nuts and even a variety of biscotti that were so delicious. A thoughtful treat!

  3. Deliver a snack pack treasure chest. It is not always convenient, nor healthy, to head to the hospital cafeteria, so when friends presented me with “A Caring Snack Pack,” I was overwhelmed. It was a huge treasure trove filled with water bottles, KIND bars, pretzels, yogurt, fresh fruit, veggies and dip, and a small insulated tote bag. I kept everything in the refrigerator and just took along what I needed for the day. Convenient and healthy.

  4. Step up and be a thoughtful dear friend. What would we do without dear friends? One person closed his physical therapy practice for an afternoon, came to the hospital and said, “Go home and rest, I’ll sit here for the rest of the day.” What a blessing!

  5. Keep family and friends updated. Well-meaning family and friends may not realize the burden they place on the caregiver with the request to “call me with updates.” After a day in the hospital, the last thing needed was to rehash events over and over again. These requests could easily be handled online with CaringBridge.org, a blog, or a simple updated message on the answering machine.

  6. Call the caregiver during the day. If you absolutely want to chat with the caregiver, give a call on the cell phone during the day. With caller ID, I got to choose which calls to take. Many times it was just the excuse needed to leave the hospital room and head to the family lounge for a brief chat.

  7. Know the caregiver’s schedule. My sister called every morning while I was eating breakfast just to chat for a few minutes and make sure I was eating. Another friend called me every evening as I was driving home from the hospital. This was a comfort and relieved the loneliness and emotional letdown. But as soon as I walked through the door, she would say good-night. I really appreciated the caring.

  8. Hospital visitation is not necessarily a good idea. A few family members drove several hours to visit us in the hospital. It was nice that they cared, but it can be taxing on both the patient and the caregiver. Plan your visit carefully. Weekends are best. There is a lot of activity during the week with tests, transports, nurses monitoring vitals and doctor’s visits. And, in between all that it is important for the patient to rest and recuperate. Where are these people now that we are home? I could use a bit of a break. Come and relieve me for an afternoon!

  9. Think for the caregiver. Encourage caregivers to contact the professionals in their life – estate attorneys, financial planners, etc. Knowing that your affairs are in order is a relief. It is easier to make the necessary updates while your mind is still clear. Provide the hospital and doctors with a copy of the Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney.

  10. In lieu of flowers, think of greeting and gift cards. There is always added expenses when you are the primary caregiver. Gift cards or gas cards are a thoughtful gesture in lieu of flowers. Most hospital rooms are small and flower arrangements take up valuable real estate whereas greeting cards can be taped to the walls. Also, check to see if the hospital has a Helpful Hands Concierge Service which provides many inexpensive and free services and amenities to patients and visitors. There are countless options ranging from gift/flower delivery, DVD and equipment rentals, newspapers, reading material, laptop computers with internet connection, hotel or dinner reservations, notary services, oil changes, dry cleaning drop off and pick up, package shipping, pet services, personal shopping and so much more.

Having thoughtful family and friends makes the task of caring for a loved one easier. Many people ask what they can do to help, but usually the caregiver is under so much pressure that a foggy mind cannot think of anything beyond the day to day necessary tasks. Don’t ask; just provide nourishment for the body and soul.

© Judith Ann Kirk

Judith Ann Kirk began her professional organizing career in 1994 after more than 20 years working in the corporate atmosphere. She now enjoys Emeritus status in the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).

She is the founder of the Connecticut Organizers Informal Group which became an accredited chapter of NAPO in 2003. Over the years she held multiple leadership positions for the chapter Board of Directors, and on the national level, she served on the Membership Committee, Continuing Education Committee and National Golden Circle Chair.

Through every turn in her life, Judith Ann has learned that being a lifelong student opens the door of possibilities. Her words of advice: Never stop learning and always carry pen and paper for moments of inspiration. Judith can be reached through her website www.organizingresources.com.

gap_guide_10_codes_to_use_perspective_newIf you like these tips you may be interested in the Get a Plan! Guide® to Codes to Use When You Are Completely Overwhelmed as the Child of Aging Parents. In this special Get a Plan! Guide® that was written to reflect Meggin’s own experiences near the ends of her parents’ lives, you will learn 10 codes to apply to your list of oh-my-gosh-how-can-I-get-everything-done-because-I’m-freaking-out items. These codes, along with Meggin’s suggestions, will help you gain some perspective and will help you approach your list – and your responsibilities – in a different manner.

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