3 Things to Do Before Becoming a Caregiver

17“I’m worried about adult care at a point when most people my age are worried about daycare”

~ @iamChrissie_K on Twitter

I found out my mother had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when I was around 13 years old; her first breakdown was about four years earlier. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, I was just happy to have a name to give to all of odd behavior she was displaying. We were blessed to have grandparents that were willing and able to provide for her, their first child and only daughter,  when she was unable to provide for herself.  Decades later I would begin thinking about how I would care for my mother, at a time when I felt I should be thinking about becoming a mother.  For years I was a caregiver from a distance.  I didn’t have to deal with the day to day needs of my mother.  But I knew deep down, I would have to step up at some point, and I began to prepare, here’s how:

I worked on ME:  When you become a caregiver for a family member it will be fulfilling and exhausting at the same time.  It is important that you mentally prepare yourself, before you agree to care for someone else. You must know what makes you happy.  With your time divided between caring for someone else, work and possibly a family of your own, you have to know what to do with yourself for your “me time”.  I worked on my ability to say no.  I worked on reducing stress.  I worked on being more productive in my spare time-this was key because I didn’t want to stop doing things I liked because of a lack of time. I made sure I was content with myself.  Yeah, it took my therapist telling me I wasn’t ready to step into the caregiver role, but I am glad I listened.

I talked to my family members:  Caring for a loved one doesn’t have be all on one person.  Divide and conquer.  On paper my sister is the primary caregiver, however, day to day I do just as much as she does.  My sister is the budgeter, the organizer, the one that knows the ins and outs of her bills and medical stuff.  I am the one that takes her to church, food shopping (most times) and we go walking together. My grandfather made it clear that his time was up, and we were on deck.  He’s in his mid-80’s now, he has earned the right to turn over the responsibility to us.  Although we still have disagreements, understanding there has to be a balance  for everyone is important.

I learned about her illness: My mother has a doctor she sees on a regular basis and a  nurse comes to her home, however I still needed to know about schizophrenia.  Learning about her illness has helped me separate my mother, from her illness.  Learning the difference between the symptoms and her personality increased my patience.  I learned that on her “bad days” it is OK to leave her alone.  I learned that high stress situations can be a trigger for her.  I read books, read articles, and watched movies/documentaries and YouTube.  I had to know what I was going to be dealing with from day to day.

Taking on the role of caregiver can be stressful, however it is manageable.  If you maybe become a caregiver, even if it is years off, begin preparing.  Outside of beginning to saving a few more dollars each month, these were the best things I could have done for myself and for my mother.    

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