By Rudy Spannaus, Caring Group Facilitator at Ann's Place
As the word implies, “Caregivers“, give care to others. However, for those of us caring for someone we love with a cancer diagnosis, we know that the word caregiver encompasses so much more. We become well versed in medical vocabulary so we understand what the doctors tell us. We become the keepers of all medical information about our loved one and systematically organize it in a gigantic binder that is kept with us at all times. We file insurance claims, pay bills, attend doctor appointments, take care of families and go to work. We cry. We worry. We get angry and feel afraid. We protect our loved ones and absorb their fears and concerns . . . often downplaying or even negating our own emotions. We jump into the role of caregiver with little to no training, learn as we go and question our ability to do all that this new role demands.
As a caregiver, it is equally important that we “give care” to ourselves. Perhaps doing so is the hardest aspect of our role. We feel guilty if we take time for ourselves. We expect our bodies and emotions to keep up, to do more, and we minimize the impact of this new role on our health and wellness. There are limits to our endurance; caring for a loved one with cancer resembles a marathon, not a sprint. By taking care of ourselves we are more able to take care of others.
Consider these possible options as a start:
- Allow others to help you.
- Set healthy boundaries.
- Maintain your own health.
- Don't beat yourself up with guilt.
- Compliment yourself on the tremendous caregiving job you are doing.
The website Caregiver.com offers practical information to help with a variety of issues caregivers encounter. As caregivers, taking small steps in the way we care for ourselves can have a big impact on the quality of care we give to others.
There are many options of support available to us. As your schedule allows, visit Ann’s Place and attend a wellness activity or a support group. The Caring Group meets on the first and third Wednesday evening of each month. Our group offers caregivers a chance to spend time with others who are facing similar challenges and uncertainties. To register for this group or others, please contact Ann's Place at 203-790-6568. A Calendar of Programs is also available at the Ann's Place website. All are welcome.
Rudy earned her Master's Degree in Counseling from Fairfield University. She has worked with adolescents, families and educators in a school setting for the past seven years and is honored to join Ann's Place as a volunteer group facilitator. Rudy lives in Brookfield with her husband and enjoys spending time with family, friends, and her dog on Candlewood Lake.