Simply put, Chaos is bad.
When a health crisis occurs, chaos follows. Family caregivers in chaos often feel overwhelmed and out of control. There are ways that caregivers can conquer chaos. Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, while on vacation and in his mid-70s, my dad missed a stair and badly broke his ankle requiring orthopedic surgery. The chaos that followed this health crisis not only impacted him physically, but it affected the wellbeing of all involved. I can only imagine the physical pain that he suffered no longer having his foot in place. I saw the emotional strain of a strong, active man being humbled and made dependent (even temporarily) by this accident. In an instant, he faced an uncertain future that included surgery and months of rehabilitation and learning how to walk again.
Being witness to the accident, my mom felt the heartache of seeing her lifelong companion in excruciating pain. She also faced the immediate challenges and complexities of coordinating care for her loved one – while in a foreign country. My mom was also faced with how to get him home and manage the 12-hour return trip. This was the beginning of months of effort where my mom, brothers and I worked to support him and provide care. We all had to immediately adjust and change our lives to this urgent priority, resist the stress and anxiety, keep his spirits up, and find ways to combat the chaos.
What Does Chaos Do?
Chaos has serious implications for all involved — you as family caregivers, your loved ones in need, and their home and caregiving environment.
- Disrupts the family environment
- Makes people anxious and feeling overwhelmed
- Chaos takes huge amounts of time and effort to fight
- Increases the chances of making bad decisions
- Frustrates the ability to follow care plans
- Paralyzes people from taking action
- Jeopardizes the well-being of family caregivers and seniors
Six Ways Family Caregivers Can Conquer Chaos
Through this experience I learned how to conquer the chaos by getting our physical, mental, and emotional houses in order.
To survive and thrive, here are six ways family caregivers can conquer chaos. Remember CASITA:
- Communicate – Write it down and Communicate.
- Create a Journal. Make a log of what happens with your loved one during the day and night. Write notes when meeting with doctors. Record all medications and when to take them.
- Share the journal with everyone (all caregivers), keeping them informed.
- Don’t rely on having a long memory, or others giving you this information.
- Clarity informs decisions and decisions enable action.
- Act – Take Action.
- Create a family calendar. Get people involved.
- Simplify – Keep things simple.
- Get rid of time wasters.
- Can doctors visits be done remotely via Zoom and remove exhausting travel time?
- What can you do to simplify your lives during this challenging time?
- Identify – the goal and plan.
- Be clear about and stay focused on achieving the goal and care plan.
- Why are we here? How will we be successful? How will be measure success?
- This will help keep focus and take action when times get tough.
- Time – Take Time for yourself.
- Ensure you get enough rest. Make sure to eat and stay hydrated.
- Make a schedule for you and your loved one.
- Remember the Oxygen Mask Rule that flight attendants announce before take-off “…Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”
- Above all, take care of yourself and your sanity will follow.
- Ask for Help – When in doubt, ask for help!
- Take advantage of services that can visit and assist you at your loved one’s home. From mobile hair cuts, assistance with the activities of daily living, and getting help to move and transport your loved one with care.
- Can relatives or neighbors watch your loved one for a short time and give you a break?
- Finally, if possible, go places in pairs and in the right sized vehicle — seniors cannot easily get in-and-out of a corvette!
Sending you courage and love, David.