Ask Dr. Giles: I’m the caregiver, and I feel overwhelmed.

Melanie writes:

Hey Doc, I’m the caregiver, and he’s so sick..so miserable. Nobody really seems to know anything about this disease. As the care giver? S.O., I’m overwhelmed.

I think I’m starting to have panic attacks myself. I’ve been taking some homeopathic stuff for a week or so, seems to help a little, sometimes.

I pretty much have chemo brain myself with trying to maintain my life, and sustain his.

Any advice for a caregiver?

Melanie,

I applaud your tireless efforts to care for your loved one. He is fortunate to have someone so dedicated to him.

When I think about caregivers, I am often reminded of the safety instructions given on commercial airlines. There’s a part where instructions are given about what to do if the oxygen masks for passengers are released. The instruction is that parents of small children should put on their own oxygen masks first, and then attend to their child. Care for the caregiver is essential in this instance. Without her own oxygen, the parent can’t see to the need for oxygen of her child.

In a related way, it is important that you not neglect your own care while caring for your loved one. As you know, overlooking your own care makes you feel burned out and renders you less effective in your efforts.

Please take some time, regularly, to see to your own welfare and well being. Make sure you are getting adequate rest and proper fuel. It is important to have regular times to step away from his care. It may be that you will need to enlist others in the care of your loved one. Perhaps there are others in your and/or his circle of family members, friends, neighbors, church members, etc. who could help you. Please don’t be shy in asking others for help. It’s good for them! Being able to contribute to the care of another is good for their humanity.

As you take care of yourself, you will be more effective in taking care of your loved one. By doing so, you will be less likely to feel burned out or resentful and more likely to see your service as an opportunity for which you are grateful.

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