I currently help take care of my uncle who has Down Syndrome, my great uncle who has chromosomal miscounts, my grandmother who has had three amputation surgeries this summer and my grandfather who is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.
I have had many opportunities to learn as I have helped take care of my family members.
I want to share the lessons that I have learned, especially with those that take care of others.
1. Patience Is Important
There are days when I forget that my family members are older than I am. Sometimes, they cannot move or think as fast as I can. There are days when we don’t get along, even if it's over something that's unimportant.
Regardless, I love my family and have had to learn to be patient with them.
I also remind myself that they are patient with me.
2. Communication Is So Much More Than Spoken Words
Both of my uncles can be very difficult to understand verbally at times and get frustrated because of it.
Instead of increasing their frustration I have learned different ways to communicate with them.
Pointing, drawing and acting out what is needed or wanted are all ways that we can communicate without speaking.
3. It's The Little Things That Matter
My uncle loves coloring, and seeing his face light up when he has drawn something for me is priceless. My grandparents will often bring home treats for me when they’ve gone shopping.
Even just a hug will make my day.
4. Remember To Tell Your Family That You Love Them
This seems obvious if you are taking care of them, but it is important.
Caregiving may show that you care, but it means less if you forget to express it verbally.
Again, the little things matter.
5. There Will Be People Who Don't Understand Why You Choose To Be A Caregiver
Why would someone choose to take online college courses instead of moving on-campus?
Because my family is important to me.
Because of this, I decided to further my education while still helping them as much as I possibly can.
6. It's OK To Doubt Yourself
I’ve faced situations when I’ve been insecure about my abilities as a caregiver.
Life is unpredictable.
There will be situations when you don’t know what to do, and that's OK.
7. It's OK To Ask For Help
When you become overwhelmed and don’t know what to do, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
It is better to ask for help and feel a bit stupid than to struggle and regret your decisions later.
8. There Will Be Days When You Need A Break
If you don’t occasionally make time for yourself, you will get worn out.
Even if it’s just going to the grocery store by yourself, find a way to get away.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of those you love.
9. You Will Wonder How Much Longer You Have With Your Family
I have seen my family members go through extremely difficult health problems. It’s scary when you're faced with knowing that you could lose them at any moment.
Don’t give up hope or the memories you have of them.
10. Stay Humble
While it’s nice when people tell me that I’m inspirational for taking care of my family, it's also embarrassing.
I don’t take care of my family for the recognition from others, I do it because I love them.
11. You'll Never Regret Time Spent With Your Family
There are days when I disagree with my family members, days when I wonder how much longer I’ll have with them and days I just shake my head. Yet, I don’t regret any of the time I have spent with my family.Being with my family through the difficult times is what has made us stronger.