On a Thursday evening back in January, a panel of female caregivers (Savannah Ross, Shannon Parker, Kim McLeod, Catherine Corey and Julie Drury) gathered to offer their stories and wisdom on how they have coped with care giving. The following are their tips.
1. Get up every day, look outside and smile. Put one foot in front of the other and remember to smile throughout the day.
2. Take time off for yourself away from your children. So many parents resist this, yet we discovered that children need time off from us as well. They need their space too. So do it for them, if not for you.
3. Ask for help and open yourself to graciously receive it. Know that asking for help is a sign of strength and not weakness. You don’t need to be a superwoman, just be your beautiful magnificent self.
4. Art has some amazing healing qualities. You don’t have to be an artist and know how to draw. Purpose is simply to ‘‘let go’’ and engage your imagination. Be playful!
5. If you have a child with complex medical needs, make a quick reference booklet or cheat sheet of the information to use at triage at the emergency room, during meetings and when your child is going to be in any new environment. Being organized will help you avoid the stress of repeating yourself and your child’s history to multiple people.
6. Be organized and embrace the role of coordinator. You still need to motivate and coordinate your medical, community and school teams. Keeping a journal or log of every meeting; organizing reports and records at home; and maintaining a medical binder are all essential to your sanity. These strategies ensure that your teams have critical information in a timely manner.
7. Carve out time for yourself. Physical activity can help to keep you mentally and physically strong, social activities can help you to feel less isolated, spiritual time or time to meditate can help to refresh you.
8. Find a community. It is hard for parents of children with special needs to connect with others when it comes to their day-to-day lives. It is hard for others with ‘typical’ children to understand and appreciate what we go through. There are support groups and networks out there; engage with them and try them out until you find one that can work for you.
9. Take “time-outs”. If possible, try to step away from the busy-ness of hospital clinics, appointments with therapists and home therapy. Choose a time in the year when you can slow down the pace for your child, yourself and your role as a caregiver at home.
Compiled by Kim McLeod, Facilitator
One More Thing!