Not long ago, Sharlyn wrote a post on lessons learned while she was recuperating from her ankle surgery. A reader commented on the post, mentioning the role of caregivers during recovery. I thought it would be a great idea to extend that conversation here.
Being a caregiver wasn’t new to me. While my classmates attended after-school sports and educational events, I rushed home to help care for my mom. She contracted what is now called COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) when I was seven and medicine at the time could only make her as comfortable as possible as she slowly declined over the next ten years.
I learned many caregiver lessons then. But times change and so do some of the needs and responsibilities of today’s caregiver.
- The patient doesn’t want to be a patient. Yes, Sharlyn wanted a way to fix the growing pain in her ankle. But, she didn’t want to be limited in her exercise and activities and hobble around on crutches. That was just a necessary part of the recovery.
- Get creative in finding ways for the patient to contribute. They might not be able to do much but this isn’t a vacation. It frustrated Sharlyn that she couldn’t contribute to helping with household needs. But she could read me recipes while I cooked, spend time doing internet searches for recovery solutions, and deal with phone calls to doctors and insurance providers.
- Think about mental needs in addition to physical. Communication is never more important than during recovery. The physical repair to whatever was injured is just part of what the patient is dealing with. Think about and discuss the ramifications of limited activity over an extended period. And don’t forget about no access to hair and nail salons or maybe even daily showers.
- Remember to give yourself a break too. Okay, the patient is depending on you. That might mean cutting back on trips to the gym, the morning run, or even some downtime playing games. Depending on the length of recovery, you might get a little out of shape too. It won’t last forever, then you can get back to it. And don’t forget #1 above.
- The doctor is calling the shots now. As much as Sharlyn’s frustration grew, she knew how important it was to follow doctor’s orders. Carefully letting the body heal will pay huge benefits in fewer problems in the future. I had to remember that too whenever added responsibilities started to annoy me.
- They would gladly do the same for you. And you know it.
If you’re like me, you develop routines and habits that make up your daily life. Caregiving is a major disruption to that. Remember to communicate more and pay close attention to everything that’s happening. You might just learn a few things that will make that daily life better.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby along the streets of Washington, DC