When someone you love becomes ill or experiences an injury, it can be a painful experience for everyone around them, as well. It’s hard to know what to say or do that could be helpful when you’re not sure exactly what they’re going through. A lot of people make the mistake of pulling back and saying nothing because they’re scared of saying the wrong thing. Here are some tips to help you be there for your loved ones when they’re going through a tough time.
Remember to Put on Your Oxygen Mask First
A huge part of caring well for others is ensuring that you put your own health and wellbeing first. It might seem counterintuitive, but whether you’re helping with bruising or making tea, you’ll only be able to help as much as you’re capable of doing. If you’re neglecting your own health, both mental and physical, you may be unable to help effectively when your loved one really needs you. Experienced caretakers recommend finding a support group, whether that’s your family, friend group, or an official sponsored support group. This will ensure that when things get overwhelming for you, you have the option of calling in help and having someone to talk to. It’s important to take regular breaks if you’re caring for long periods of time, and that you’re making sure to eat, sleep, and exercise regularly.
Create a Manageable Approach
Depending on the specific injury or illness being faced, caretaking can be a draining and exhausting process. There will most likely be specific tasks that are particularly draining for you, such as transportation to appointments or bathing your loved one. This is a great time to find others who can assist you with these types of tasks, so you can devote your energy to tasks that you can do every day. Having this hybrid approach to caretaking can help you avoid having to use full-time care or put your loved one in an institution, which can be prohibitively expensive.
Focus on Quality of Life
Caretakers for loved ones can sometimes go a little too extreme when it comes to doing what’s best for the sick or injured person. After reading and researching, talking to doctors, and formulating a care plan, it’s important to take into consideration the individual’s preferences and quality of life. Specific activities might be recommended for their condition, but maybe overwhelming for the sick person to participate in. On the other hand, they may want to participate in activities that you consider too strenuous, but that makes them happy. That’s when you take a step back and remember what’s important.
Be an Advocate
One of the most valuable things you can do for your loved one in difficult times is to be their best advocate in medical situations. Particularly if your loved one is unable to advocate for themselves, it’s possible that their care team may make decisions that aren’t in their best interests. That’s when you step up and be their voice, confidently advocating for what you know they want and will be best for them.
Know the Legal Side of Things
Particularly when caring for someone at the end of their life, there are a lot of legal situations you’ll find yourself in that can be time-consuming and draining. In order to have as much attention as possible on caring for your loved one, it’s a good idea to make sure everything is in place early in the process. It’s important for the sick person to have an advance directive in place so that difficult choices regarding end-of-life care will be taken out of your hands.
The steps of legally getting things in place are: 1) naming an executor who will handle the distribution of a will, 2) taking inventory of everything the sick person owns and naming a guardian for any children or pets, 3) getting the advance directive in place, using a template if necessary, 4) naming a medical proxy who can make tough medical decisions when the patient can’t, and 5) get a will written and finalized. Having all these parts in place can be an emotionally and mentally draining process for both you and your loved one, but will make the entire situation much less stressful down the line.