Caregiving is a 24/7 gig. Supporting Jeff’s wellbeing is always on my mind whether I’m physically doing something to help him or thinking about how to manage a particular issue we’re facing.
As a cancer caregiver, I watch for changes, dive into problem-solving and advocate for Jeff. The smallest change and we’re on it. I research side effects, co-create med schedules, seek out treatments, deal with insurance paperwork, make healthy meals.
I see cancer caregivers as hopeful detectives – seeking legit solutions that will provide comfort and improve the quality of life of our loved ones.
34 million adults in the U.S. are family caregivers and on average, spend 24.4 hours a week providing care. Nearly one-quarter provide 41 or more hours of care a week. (2015 Report: Caregiving in the U.S.)
The report states caregivers help on average with 4.2 out of 7 instrumental Activity of Daily Living (ADL) including transportation, grocery or other shopping, housework and personal care activities. This doesn’t include responsibilities such as coordinating and advocating for their loved one’s health with providers, insurance companies, and other professionals.
Knock, Knock, Who’s There? The Crankasaurus
The burden of care is wide not to mention the heightened emotional stress caregivers experience. 8 out of 10 caregivers state they could use more info or help on caregiving topics and 42% want info about managing their own stress. And, the average length of a family member in a caregiving role is 4 years with a quarter providing care for 5 years or more.
7 years. It started in 2006 when Jeff was diagnosed with head/neck cancer, followed by a multi-year recovery from the accident. The last 2 years have been the hardest.
I read and hear it often…“You need to take care of yourself so you’re better able to take care of your partner.”
Every article that provides caregiving guidance speaks to the importance of taking care of self. Tips to help with self-care; seeking support; organizing medical info to make appointments easier.
I like that I’m surrounded by ideas to inspire self-care. It reminds me not to let myself get so immersed in the chaos that I forget to do things I enjoy and that bring perspective, especially helpful as we face life-threatening stages of cancer.
When I don’t take care of myself…enter the Crankasaurus.
What’s a Crankasaurus? It’s when I get irritated…at everything. Irritated in the medical process, the waiting, the traffic to/from treatment. Unexpected and last minute changes find their way into an already packed day and put a thorn in my side. The shit show bubbles over and I get angry.
Taming the Crankasaurus
For my fellow Crankasauruses (Crankasauri?) it’s normal to have these surly moments. The key is to keep things from being a 24/7 cranky zone.
I am steadily self-nourishing.
This is my new mantra. The words “practice self-care” weren’t hitting a place that spurred action. So I came up with something else that triggers me to put my needs in front. It feels powerful, accountable and my choice.
As a “seasoned” caregiver, there’s no silver bullet. It’s challenging and undeniably stressful. Building flexibility and self-compassion into my life is how I’m trying to manage the unexpected. It’s the dig-deep commitment and choice I have made – and continue to make – that carries me through the tough days. No matter how many self-care tips I come across, I am the only one that knows what I need to refuel my mind, body, and spirit. My job is to recognize it and take action so that my Crankasaurus visits less often.
How do you tame the Crankasaurus?
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