It’s that time of year: NFL Draft Pick! As a caregiver, you need to have a strong team on your side. While the NFL is choosing their overpaid players, you need to choose who you can count on to be on your caregiver team to help you get through the tough road ahead.
The Caregiver is the Quarterback
You call all of the plays. If something takes you out of the game, the team often falls apart. So, you need a strong support system behind you. Rather than equate the rest of the team to actual football positions, I will just label them as the positions they play on the caregiver team (Because I really don’t know much about football).
Your medical team is basically your offense as your loved one is dealing with cancer. They are trying to block whatever cancer throws at the patient, and even to push the line back. Okay, I said I wasn’t going to use football terminology.
The most important thing you can do to help your medical team be most effective for your caregiver team is to communicate with them. When you are wondering if this symptom or that is normal, don’t turn to your Facebook group, ask your oncologist. It will save a lot of time and needless worry. Don’t worry that you are “bugging them.” This is their job. Make sure that you have the number for the after-hours line. There is no reason you and your loved one should have to wait through the night or through the weekend to speak to someone at your clinic. Call whenever you have a concern. Typically, they will give you some guidelines: What temperature is too high? What symptoms are important to report immediately? This will help you as you decide when to call.
The Best Friend
This really doesn’t need to be limited to one person on your caregiver team. Unfortunately, all too often friends head for the hills when you become a caregiver. This doesn’t mean that they no longer care about you, although it can feel that way. Often, they just don’t know how to help and they are uncomfortable with your pain. Nevertheless, this can leave you as a caregiver, feeling abandoned. That makes your best friend even more precious to you. They are the one that is standing by you no matter what. This person seems to anticipate your needs because they check in with you on a regular basis. They come to the emergency room in the middle of the night to give you chocolate, a bottle of water, and prayer.
The Italian Mama
Think about the stereotypical Italian Mama who says, “Eat! You’re getting too skinny!” I always wanted an Italian mama. When my husband was sick, we had several. These were people who loved us by bringing us meals. My children loved these Italian mamas as well. It meant that despite Dan and I being gone all day for chemo, we could come home and eat an amazing meal. Some of these meals were home-cooked and others were sent via Grub Hub. Some were picked up at the deli. All were wonderful because they provided nourishment without a lot of energy output from me. They eliminated my mom-guilt, for not being able to make dinner.
Again, this position on your caregiver team may actually be filled by several people. We had more than one home improvement project that required help from handyman friends. One autumn, my husband called on several of his friends to help install an engineered hardwood floor in our home. This seemed like a luxury, but within a few months, he was in a wheelchair and wouldn’t have been able to scoot around the house on out ratty carpeting. The gift of those men’s time was priceless to us.
Often when you are caregiving, it is difficult to think clearly. Certainly, planning is difficult, so having someone who is a natural planner on your caregiver team is a huge help. This person may help to plan a family meeting, family gatherings like graduation parties (which can’t be put off because you are caregiving) and even funerals. It’s important to not take offense when a natural planner steps up to the plate (yes I know that we’ve switched from football to baseball). They are doing what they were created to do. Welcome their help with open arms. If you have strong feelings about how things should be done, speak up. Hopefully, they will embrace your vision and help make it happen.
The Spiritual Counselor
This member of your caregiver team is the person who can help you remain grounded in your faith. They continually bring you back to the truths that you value most. One thing to note is that they don’t use platitudes as a short cut to spirituality. They don’t weigh you down with guilt. Instead, they pray with you, encourage you, and love you even when you are struggling with your faith. It’s understandable that you would struggle when you are watching your loved one suffer from cancer. Your spiritual counselor is the person on your caregiver team who continually prays for you even when you don’t know it. They make a tremendous difference in your life.
Your Caregiver Team
If you have all of these positions on your caregiver team filled, you are very fortunate. I’ve known many people, especially people who have relocated, who don’t start out with a lot of people around them. Thankfully, but joining support groups and connecting with the people around them, these caregiver team positions usually get filled, eventually. I am very introverted and even I now have some amazing friends who supported me as a caregiver and now as a widow. Some of them are people, such as family members who have been there all along.
How is your caregiver team draft going?
What Are YOUR Thoughts?
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In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker