Caregiver, care for thyself
The first thing a caregiver should do is “care for thyself.” I know this seems counterproductive to caring for your loved one but, if you are not healthy, you cannot care for someone else.
When I became a caregiver for my mother, not only did I not know how to care for someone with a terminal illness, let alone IPF, I had no idea the toll it would take on me. Within a year, I was exhausted, having my own host of medical problems, and taking 12 different medications daily. I had gained a substantial amount of weight and was emotionally and physically spent.
This singularity in focus, while seemingly noble, is not sustainable for any of us with the job description of caregiver. After reaching this point of exhaustion, you would think I would realize that taking care of me was just as important as taking care of mom. If I was not at my best, I was not capable of bettering her everyday life. I did not see it then. Now, looking back, that realization should have led me to rethink the way I approached each day. I encourage you to do this.
It is important that you take time daily to tend to your needs, even if only 15-30 minutes here and there. Do something for “you.”
- Exercise. Go for a walk and enjoy nature.
- Meditate. Truly focus on your breathing.
- Be with others. Meet a friend for coffee or lunch, for example.
Your mental health, as well as your physical health, should still be your priority. If you are having medical problems, see your doctor. Do NOT put off your own health in lieu of caring for your loved one.
Taleena Koch, Breathe Support Network
(This article reflects the experiences and personal opinions of its author. The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation has not evaluated its content for accuracy.)