It happens every day but until it’s you, it never quite sinks in. When news of a frightening illness eventually hits close to home, it becomes a game changer.
Time stands still. Your life hits the pause button. Suddenly, the world seems to be a series of rainy days, hard-to-understand explanations, medical appointments, tests and surgeries. Hopefully, there will also be talk of treatment options and recovery times, but that might seem like a distant horizon.
You’re with others but alone—standing your ground but volatile. You and your family have become members of a club that you never filled in an application to join.
From here on, there’s a battle to wage as a patient, family member, caregiver or friend. For some, it’s short-term pain for longer-term gain with surgeries such as hip and knee replacements. But for most, it’s a more serious situation following an accident or stroke. It’s the brave new world of cancer care or wrapping your head around living with a chronic illness.
Suddenly, a team of specialists and doctors become your new best friends, their words bringing sadness or encouragement, good news or bad, relief or treatment. The days seem longer and the nights less comfortable. Nothing is as it was before, but there is light in the darkness.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. So true when it comes to caregiving! Many have written and spoken of strategies to keep their heads up and cope. So, in preparing for a journey our family is about to go on, I found some good advice from those who have gone before:
1. Take it slowly. Don’t push yourself to absorb too much at once.
2. Lean in and ask for support at home, at work and from friends and experts.
3. There’s no right or wrong. While the basics might be the same, we’re all different. Ask about your options and bear in mind that each person’s journey is unique.
4. Decisions are yours. Don’t be rushed, bullied or cajoled into doing something you don’t want to do.
5. Be brave and take charge. To quote Anaïs Nin, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
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