What the patient or loved one can do to care for the caregiver

I think it's human nature that we lean toward under appreciating the people closest to us—like parents, spouses, and caregivers.

I have been both “the patient,”—the person receiving care, and the Caregiver, the person providing care for someone who cannot be left alone for safety reasons—like my father who had Alzheimer’s, and for my mother who had a massive stroke and could not use the left side of her body.

I was also the Caregiver for my former husband—an Army Veteran with PTSD.

I have seen the practice of caregiving from both sides of the coin.

Having been an underappreciated, overworked, and overwhelmed Caregiver has made me a better patient.

We rely on our caregivers to take care of all of our needs, some of our needs, or to just be there when, or if we need them.

For a while during my recovery, when my current husband was my boyfriend and could have easily just walked away from the relationship, he voluntarily stepped into the role of caregiver—as most caregivers do.

Caregivers are not responsible for your life...Stay engaged

Even in my darkest times, I made a promise to the universe that I would treat my caregiver the way that I wished I had been treated when I was a caregiver.

There were times when I was impatient or insensitive to my caregiver’s human needs. Each time that I noticed this unacceptable behavior I quickly apologized for it without making excuses.

It sounded sort of like this:

“I’m really sorry I was rude and impatient with you. I know you’re trying your best to take care of me and I appreciate the great job you’re doing.”

Even with this level of awareness, about two months into being my caregiver my boyfriend shared with me that he was never so stressed out in all his life. He thought that he was having a heart attack, I think he was experiencing anxiety, but he never thought that my illness might be affecting him.

I was happy that my caregiver could be open and honest about his feelings. I showed him some ways to cope with the stress and I worked harder at being a little bit easier to be around.

Your #NewNormalBigLife - Life hack for your caregiver

Losing an income, temporarily or permanently, and not having a partner to share the day-to-day responsibilities of running a household and raising a family places a lot of pressure on the caregiver and the rest of the family.

What I noticed in my own recovery is that by making an effort to do as much as I could when I was feeling better balanced out the times when I was checked out mentally, having physical challenges, or heavily medicated.

I stayed engaged in my life as much as I could and even made a sort of competition with myself to see how many items I could check off my to-do-list each day as motivation.

Tomorrow I'll give you a life hack for staying engaged in your life even when you're feeling the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

My experience with trauma is unique to me. Not everyone will be triggered in the same way or react as I have in similar situations, but my hope is that it will help people to understand what it is like to have a mood disorder, how my trauma occurred, and what efforts I have taken, along with my healthcare team, family, and a small group of friends to save my life and to create my new normal.

I want to hear from you caregivers and loved ones of a person struggling with mental illness, PTSD, or recovering from a physical or emotional trauma. I especially want to hear from anyone who has found their way to their own recovery—and new normal. This is a safe community in which to share your story.

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