5 Tips for Family Caregivers during a Medical Crisis

Wed, 13 Jan 2016

Over the last couple of months, I have been immersed in a medical situation with a family member that caused major disruption in our day to day lives. Many of my usual activities were suspended during this time, including writing this blog I’m sorry to say. However, now that the crisis has passed with a very positive outcome, I’d like to share what helped us through this challenging time in our lives with the hope that others might benefit.

  • Assess the situation to determine the essentials; what
  • should be done immediately and what could be postponed or delayed. I realized quickly that I would need time off from work, so I requested Family Medical Leave
  • . I made sure my clients were informed ahead of time of any schedule changes, and if a longer term absence was required I had a contingency plan in place.
  • Ask for assistance and be willing to accept offers from others if this will be helpful to you. If not, be polite but firm in saying “No, not now”. Gestures of kindness such as phone calls, prepared meals and cards were appreciated and welcomed, but in person visits were restricted. My friends and family were a huge support for me during this time. My sister was a long time caregiver for our mom and many others. She helped me immensely to keep things in perspective.
  • During all medical procedures and appointments, keep a notebook or file folder to write all pertinent information, especially changes to medications as sometimes the electronic medical record is not up to date. Include names and phone numbers, especially the emergency numbers for the medical staff. I recommend using a business card holder which can be included in a binder and is easy to manage
  • Do not hesitate to ask questions of the medical staff, and advocate until you are comfortable with the services being provided. If there is a problem, there is usually information in the materials they provide which give you options for a second opinion if necessary.
  • Finally, most importantly, accept the fact that you cannot do it all. Allow for non essentials to fall by the wayside or be postponed. Be gentle with yourself as well as your ill loved one or family member as they need to recuperate and will require your full support and understanding.

Remember that being a caregiver for family members or others can deplete one's physical, emotional and mental reserves, so it's important to take care of yourself. Eat healthy meals, maintain an exercise routine (yoga is great for this) and know that you are being a tremendous support for your loved ones during this challenging time. When stressed, which is normal, remember to express gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to be of service to another.