Woman looking at abstract artwork

“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experiences,” wrote American physician and author, Oliver Wendell Holmes.

What does this have to do with caregiving? Well, similar to an abstract painting in an art gallery, Holmes’ quote encourages us to think. It’s a conversation piece. Just as an abstract painting isn’t bound to one meaning, the quote inspires us to conjure up our own interpretations and to apply it to our present circumstances.

For me, this quote emphasizes the importance of understanding and appreciating “the present time.” How often have we had that “Aha!” moment, where everything makes perfect sense to us, but it came just a minute (or sometimes years) too late? Instead we’re often left with regret – regret of what should or could have been – whether it’s related to finances, dating, jobs, raising a family, health, or caring for a loved one. What difference would it have made if we knew “back then” what we know now?

When I think about my aging parents and grandparents, I am confronted with the reality that I may one day fall into the caregiving role. Out of all of the roles one can adopt in life, caregiving may be among the most unexpected and unpredictable. Although it can be a very rewarding experience, many people don’t think about becoming caregivers and therefore are blindsided when it happens. Many find the rigorous demands of the job completely overwhelming, frustrating, lonely and exhausting. Some feel as though they’re running a marathon blindfolded, not knowing what’s coming next until they get there.

Guidance for the caregiving journey

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a GPS that would tell us exactly what to do, where to turn and what’s coming next so that we could get to our desired destination in the most efficient manner possible? That would probably save us from a lot of stress and from making some big mistakes.

While we often receive guidance through parents, professors, family and friends, for caregiving tips we should learn also from the people who do it extremely well. The ideas below were taken from the nominations submitted online for CICOA’s 2019 Caregiver of the Year Award. Each nominee displays sacrificial acts of courage and strength in caring for their loved one – and those acts did not go unnoticed. Below are 10 tips for caregivers that can make the caregiving journey more meaningful, purposeful and successful.

10 tips for caregivers

  1. Understand the disease and advocate for your loved one.
  2. Remain family. Become friends.
  3. Communicate well.
  4. Patience, patience, patience.
  5. Be an example.
  6. Release the grief; focus on the challenge.
  7. Embrace change.
  8. Create a routine.
  9. Have support.
  10. Laugh. A lot!

We’re here to talk

Sure, caregiving comes with its own unique set of challenges. But we can all make things a little easier by gaining insight from the life experiences of others. For more information on tools and resources related to caregiving, contact CICOA’s Caregiver Options Counselors at 317-803-6002 or 317-803-6140, or by email at caregivers@cicoa.org.

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