Some days are really bad and it is challenging for a carer to watch a loved one in distress. The next day the sick person could be feeling better and there is a completely different atmosphere in the house. Self-care is much easier to do on the good days!
I remember that when my father was dying of lung cancer, my mother was his carer and would see him eating more food one day.
Lung cancer is a particularly nasty form of cancer. My husband was born with bronchitis, developed asthma at age 13 and twenty years ago emphysema was diagnosed, then lung cancer just over a year ago. He was given six months to live, however because of his positive attitude to life and his careful use of food and supplements, he has survived well beyond that. But he is dying and I have to live with that fact.
Like my father, he has good days and bad days, and I have to live with not knowing if he is going to die today/tonight, in a few months, or in a year’s time.
I need to take great care to support my own body because I have to be fit enough to handle these emotional ups and downs. If I am woken at night I need to make sure I don’t get overtired. If I have to do more running about then I need to make sure I am physically fit for doing more tasks.
Perhaps I need to consider arranging respite care, or have a friend visit him while I go out. At the moment he is reasonably independent so I can leave him alone for a few hours, but what if he needs twenty-four hour monitoring? How would I cope then?
You often hear of carers who burn out and die before their loved ones or who have to put their partners into a care home and live apart because they can’t cope alone.
And that’s the point, we don’t have to do it all – we don’t have to be martyrs. There are friends who would love to help, there are local government services available, there is financial support for this and we need to access every means of support that is on offer. It is of equal importance that we set up a care plan for ourselves as the carer, as well as for the person being cared for.
We all have good days and bad days, and they seem to be emphasised and more dramatic in the case of terminally ill people and their carers. The more we can care for and support ourselves, the more easily we can cope with the challenges each day presents.
Carmel R., Australia
Published with permission of my husband
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