Being Proactive Versus Reactive

By Suzanne Mintz, National Family Caregivers Association

Knowing more about yourself and the circumstances that could have an immediate effect on your situation is a start, but taking charge of your life shouldn't end there. Over and beyond gaining an understanding of what you bring to your caregiving situation, there are other actions you can take to boost your confidence and give you more of a sense of ease. It is important to remember that, although you can't control everything that happens, you do have the power to choose your responses and whether you are going to let circumstances take control of you, or you are going to take control of circumstances.

I strongly believe that family caregivers need to become strong advocates for their loved ones and themselves, and that we need to be proactive and resourceful in finding the information and help that we need. Having said that, I also recognize how difficult it is for already over burdened caregivers to find the energy and wherewithal to battle unresponsive healthcare and social-services systems, and unfortunately, sometimes other family members as well, and to meet their loved one's needs, especially if being a fighter doesn't come naturally.

I also know that many of you will do just that. You will find an inner strength you didn't know you had and you will make an effort – indeed, are making an effort every day – to resolve yet another problem with the insurance company, put the pieces in place that will allow you to get away for a day of respite, track down the cardiologist and get him to coordinate with your loved one's primary care doctor. It's hard to be an advocate for yourself and your loved one, but if you or someone you delegate to are not, then life will be that much more difficult because caregiving doesn't come easily, and the services and supports we need unfortunately aren't part of a seamless whole.

Being an advocate means recognizing that you and your loved ones are consumers and, as consumers of our healthcare system, are owed quality care, respect, and responsiveness. Being an advocate means recognizing that the squeaky wheel is often the only one that gets attention in a too-busy system. Being an advocate means fighting for what you believe is right – whether that is an extra day in the hospital or a timely report on a new set of tests. It's getting your boss to understand that now you need some time off, but that you have a plan in place for meeting your responsibilities to the company, and being an advocate is also about getting at least one other family member to recognize that now and then you are going to need a break and they are going to have to chip in with hands-on care.

A Family Caregiver Speaks Up

The above is an excerpt from Suzanne Mintz' latest book: A Family Caregiver Speaks Up: "It Doesn't Have to Be This Hard." She is a nationally recognized advocate and the award-winning President of the National Family Caregivers Association. Mintz has cared for her husband, Steven who has MS for over thirty years. Her book tells of her own inspiring story and expert advice for America's millions of caregivers to speak up for themselves, the loved ones in their care, and all family caregivers. Note the quote marks around the subtitle are integral to it.

Click here to learn more and purchase the book


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