Guest blogger, Rob Harris shared with us his spiral into over-compassionate caregiver and decision to bring his true self to the table the second time cancer hit in Tuesday’s post, “Caregiving…Martyrs Need Not Apply.”
As a former caregiver, I know this slippery slope too well. It is understandable. We want to do anything we possibly can to ensure our loved one survives this intense and difficult journey. Having our own needs or indulging in the luxury of simple things like laughter can seem inappropriate and fill caregivers with guilt or shame.
When Rob landed in the caregiving role after his wife’s second cancer diagnosis, he decided to do it his way and be authentic…still caring, but authentic. He found the constrictions of in-patient treatment a perfect Petrie dish to show up as his true self. Read on for how he did a 180 degree shift in the realm of caregiving…
This time around, I did not care what people thought of me and my behavior. I saw no benefit in being sad, worried and distraught. The situation “is what it is.” How was being upset going to improve the dilemma? The answer: It wasn’t.
When it comes to in-patient treatment, other than attending a lecture on the evolution of snails, it can be the most incredibly boring place to spend consecutive days and nights. There is just so little to do there, so I had to be creative and came up with things like:
- When shopping or to the cafeteria, I always brought back snacks for the nursing staff and their techs. Every person who came into our room was greeted with a smile and laughter, when possible.
- Since ours was a “teaching hospital,” we noticed that, on occasion, the doctor making the rounds intimidated the first-year residents. We couldn’t have that in our room, so we played practical jokes on the doctors. My wife and I would say we made a bet on a personal fact about the doctor, such as the kind of car he drove. With money allegedly on the line, the doctor was forced to expose something personal as he didn’t want to upset his patient in front of the medical entourage. The young physicians always lagged behind and whispered what they wanted us to ask him the following day. We all enjoyed this.
- Every morning, I would start our day by playing, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” loud enough for the doctors, nurses and nurse techs in the hallway to hear it. Many poked their heads into our room and wished us a “good morning.”
- During the Christmas holiday, I decorated our room and my wife’s chemotherapy pole with tinsel and ornaments. Whenever we went for a walk, we received a number of smiles and comments. Some nurses mentioned they had never seen that done before.
- When the physical therapist was teaching my wife how to walk again, I walked behind them with my laptop blaring out the Olympic theme song.
- On Saturdays, we would watch college football games in our room and order in pizza with enough to share. We usually drew quite a crowd of doctors, nurses, nurse techs, other caregivers and a patient or two.
When my wife was sleeping. I did calisthenics in the room and the stairwell, listened to music and comedy routines and caught up on work. These are just a few of the things I did for myself that had a ripple effect on the community around us. I share many other examples in my two books, targeted for publication by January 2012.
Caregivers, I want to leave you with this one piece of advice: Think of ways to have fun. It’s not necessary to be miserable. It will not change your set of circumstances. Have laugh, find ways to enjoy life and take care of yourself. There is no greater contribution you to your loved one. Whenyou are happy, it is contagious for your patient and all others with whom you interact.
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Thanks to Rob for sharing his personal story, insights and fiendish sense of humor. What a blessing you are.