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HHL Caregiving Awareness

Campaign to Raise Awareness About the Growing Caregiving Community and Their Unmet Need

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Caregiving Brings a Greater Appreciation and Need for Your Own Preventive Care

10/31/2016 10:28AM | 4165 views

By Glenn Llopis

One of the great things about caregiving is that you learn to put someone else first, above your own needs. “Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible,” says Tia Walker in ‘The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love’ (by Peggi Speers and Tia Walker).

But as is often the case when serving and helping others, in addition to joy you can also find out a lot about yourself – and what it takes to become a better and more self-aware person. This is what I experienced while serving as one of my father’s caregivers during his waning years with Alzheimer’s disease.

My primary role amongst our incredible team of family and professional caregivers was building and managing the relationships with each of my father’s physicians and the caretakers at his assisted living facility. In this role, I had a front row seat to everything that was going on with him physically, medically and mentally as his body aged and his disease progressed. Whenever he had an appointment with one of his doctors, I was always in the room with him – ostensibly to ask questions and be a voice for my father – but also to learn all that we could about his probabilities, the potential things that could happen going forward, and other issues we should be mindful of as his caregivers and closest family members.

To keep all of his medical history and information organized, I literally built a spreadsheet of all his physicians (heart specialist, urologist, etc., even his dentist), where I logged each of their perspectives on the different parts of his body that they specialized in, how they were treating it – and how it was breaking down as he aged. This helped me anticipate what was happening to him, so that I could do more research in certain areas and explore different avenues for treatment and the risks of doing, or not doing, them.

But what this level of detail in caregiving also began to do was open my eyes wider to the importance of preventive care – to being proactive about and an advocate for taking care of one’s own health and well-being from an early age. In other words, in caring for someone else, you come to a greater understanding of why you must take better care of yourself – and how to be more preventive in your own care and life in general.

We were fortunate in that my father – the son of a physician in Cuba – was ever mindful of his health and being preventive in his care for himself and his family. He did not have any real health problems until showing the first signs of Alzheimer’s in his mid-80s – and lived well into his 90s after that.

But my father was an exception. Look around and you can see that the state of health in this country is not that great overall. Too many families are ill-equipped and ill-prepared to make the necessary changes toward preventive care and better health.

Instead, we take care of ourselves when we have problems – and continue to indulge when we don’t. But over time, those two things come together, as one will always lead to the other. That is why we have such an epidemic of chronic diseases, from all types of cancers to diabetes and obesity. It’s hitting multicultural communities especially hard, primarily Hispanic and African-American populations, which carry the heaviest burden of healthcare disparities and the biggest risk of chronic disease left unchecked.

Fortunately, many healthcare providers here in the Los Angeles area, and well beyond to healthcare organizations throughout the United States, have begun to recognize the growing need for physicians, clinical professionals and staff that more closely mirror the patients they serve. But how many are taking the necessary steps and making the commitment to recruit more Hispanics and other multicultural groups into the healthcare industry, as well as providing much needed career development and advancement opportunities for them?

You don’t have to wait until they do. Here are some helpful tips I learned from my and my family’s own experience as caregivers:

 

  1. Turn the spotlight of accountability on yourself. You have more influence than you think on what you can do for your loved one. Take action, ask the hard questions, get informed and influence the entire caregiving process. 
  2. Validate the advice you are given. Adapt it based on the needs, beliefs and desired lifestyle your loved one is accustomed to. Unfortunately, healthcare has traditionally taken a one-size-fits-all approach to care. But as Hispanics, we know the impact our cultural heritage has on our lives and the way we live them. Don’t ever lose sight of the impact that heritage has on the soul of your loved one. 
  3. Stay strong and be transparent within your family about the effect the whole caregiving process has on the family unit. Everyone handles the caregiving process differently. Some cry, others remain stoic. Some grieve – either openly or privately – while others may remain in denial. Some get depressed, others stay strong. Caregiving affects everyone and if the family is open with each other about their feelings and state of mind while caring for a loved one, the healing process doesn’t have to wait until the end of the caregiving cycle – it can start immediately.

 

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