How did you get started in all of this caregiving stuff?
I became a caregiver 23 years ago when my beautiful wife, Charlene, suffered a massive stroke that left her severely speech impaired, and paralyzed on one side, and in that moment, our world turned upside down. During the next 2-years, my wife was angry and bitter, and we almost broke up.
But we hung in there, and I quickly realized that I didn’t want other caregivers to go through what I was going through, so I became, Dave, The Caregiver’s Caregiver. I now host a Syndicated radio show, I’m a Best-Selling author, I’ve spoken at Harvard, with Suzanne Sommers, and I have appeared on 34 TV show talking about:
How to Prevent your loved one’s illness… (and the Corona Virus) from killing you both, since AARP say 41% of caregivers are have a compromised immune system from burn out, and 30% of them die before their loved ones do from stress!! Now, Caregivers are also stressed about the Corona Virus and being sheltered at home with their loved one.
What are the 3 biggest mistakes caregivers make that put them at risk of death and the hospital?
- They don’t put their needs first, like the airlines tell you. “Put your oxygen mask on FIRST.”
- They don’t ask for help. Don’t ever turn down help when it is offered. Be specific when you ask. Make a list of your needs so you can refer to it when asked. Don’t be shy. If they can’t give their time, they ask for money to hire help for respite help to get away for an hour, a day, a weekend, or a week (especially from your siblings or family members).
- They allow anyone to guilt them into believing they are not doing enough, or they are not doing it good enough.
What is your CARE formula for surviving burnout?
To keep a caregiver burnout free, I came up with my CARE acronym.
C. Communicate with Friends. Don’t isolate yourself.
A. Ask for help. And be specific.
R. Rest. Caregivers need 8 hours sleep every single night, but they only average 2 or 3. I can’t survive on that, can you?
E. Eat. Nutritious, healthy Food. Don’t eat Junk Food! Junk Food’s got sugar, chemicals processed ingredients. All that stuff will kill you.
That’s why I wrote my book & have a membership website. It’s My Life Too! THRIVE and Stay ALIVE as a Caregiver. It’s for caregivers who KNOW they need to put their needs first, but just don’t know how. And If you are not a caregiver, just wait, everyone will either need one or become one, there’s no escaping it, Now is the time to learn how to be one, not after tragedy strikes and it’s too late. Go to CaregiverDave.com, and can get the support you desperately need. I am giving away 3 FREE gifts to help caregivers THRIVE, not just survive.
Explain the grief process.
Anytime we suffer loss, we grieve. If our loved one gets cancer, if they die, if the CPA says we must file bankruptcy, if our lawyer says we are being sued, if our girlfriend or boyfriend breaks up with us, it is all a loss for us. As a result, we go through a grief process. The first stage of grief is usually:
The brain just can’t believe what has just happened, so we don’t accept it. The doctor is wrong, the lawyer is mistaken, the lab report is someone else’s, my girlfriend is just upset with me, and she’ll get over it like she always does, etc. If we don’t eventually get over this denial, we will become delusional, and will make up our own reality in our head that agrees with our denials. For example, the grandmother who has Dementia would rather believe that someone is breaking into her house stealing her stuff, or hiding her stuff (and then bringing it back) instead of believing the reality that she is losing her memory.
After we realize that we were in denial and our new reality is more than we can handle, we become very angry at anyone and everyone. Your loved one, the doctors, ourselves, God, whoever we can blame, because we tell ourselves this has to be somebody else’s fault.
After we realize that being angry just gets people mad at us, and doesn’t accomplish anything except make us isolated and feel lonely, then we enter into the third stage of grief – bargaining. We try to negotiate our way out of the grief. We tell our girlfriend, “Can we still be friends?” We tell the doctor, “There must be something we can do to make the cancer go away.” We make a deal with God that if he heals your wife, you will go to church every Sunday for the rest of your life, etc.
We become lost in a maze of if only… or what if… statements. We want life returned to what is was –to go back in time, choose the correct hospital, get the proper medication, not say what we said, etc. Guilt is often the bargainer’s companion. The if only’s cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we think we could have done differently.
Some therapists believe that guilt is a part of the third stage of bargaining, but others say it is its own fourth stage. It is normal to experience some guilt after any tragedy. However, most of the time it is undeserved.
There are two types of guilt, undeserved guilt and deserved guilt. When you feel guilty, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself, “Is there a legitimate reason that I should feel this guilt?” If the answer is yes, then correct the wrong. Apologize to the person. Fix what you broke. Call who you should have called. Turn yourself into the police, whatever it is, fix it! Then dispose of the guilt, never to see it again.
If the answer to the above question is no, make sure you can be honest, fair and objective about your answer. If you are not sure, then ask the opinion of a well-respected mentor. If the answer is still no, then there is no wrong to correct. You are innocent. The guilt is undeserved. No apology is necessary. There is nothing to fix, nothing broken, no one to call.
Okay, you get the picture. Then take the guilt, and dispose of it. You never have to see it again. In either case, the guilt is gone. Some people hang on to their guilt for months, for years, or forever! They get sick or their personality gets infected from this unresolved guilt.
Some people are very good at dispensing undeserved guilt to others, like mothers, for example. I can think of episodes of “Sanford & Son,” where Redd Foxx’s character, Fred Sanford would routinely hold his chest, look up into heaven, and say, “Elizabeth, I’m commin’ to join ya’ honey!” This comical skit worked every single time to get his son, Lamont, to do whatever Fred wanted him to do using undeserved guilt.
The next stage is depression. Losing the quality of life you once had can cause you to wonder if life is really worth living anymore. Depression is a normal symptom in the grief process when a loss occurs. Doctors routinely prescribe anti-depressants to take the edge off of a depression that is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Many depression victims routinely take their own lives, according to doctors. Men usually use a gun, and women usually take an overdose of pills. Contrary to popular belief, anti-depressants are not a drug that makes you dopy, or gives you symptoms similar to being under the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs. It simply restores the chemical imbalance in the brain so that it functions normally again. Sometimes it can take as long as 3-6 weeks to find the correct dosage and/or kind of anti-depressant that works for you. Don’t give up, hang in there until your doctor finds what is right for you.
Again, some therapists believe that loneliness is a part of the stage of depression, but others say it is its own next stage. It often leads to depression and it is hard to overcome.
The anti-depressants should help to finally bring you out of your loneliness and depression.
The final stage of grief is acceptance. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours, as we flip in and out of one stage and then another.
We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.
How is your wife doing today?
She’s doing great, Now, she still can’t talk, but she can communicate non- verbally with Pictionary and Charades, (2 games I hate, BTW — but I’m learning to love), and she still can’t walk, but has a power chair that goes faster than me, I can’t keep up with her. She’s like Martha Stewart and Wonder Woman, she just makes us all look like whiners & complainers