How This Mother Became the Organized Caregiver
On the morning of July 12, 1994, my then 6 year old daughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease; a serious, non-curable inflammatory GI condition. By coincidence I had a gynecological checkup scheduled for that afternoon. As I was lying on the examining table crying to my doctor about my daughter’s diagnosis, his face suddenly became pale. I’ll never forget the next words: “Lyn – I’m afraid this is not your day. You have a lump in your breast.”
And so the saga began. There is nothing worse for a mother than to hear that her child has an incurable chronic disease. Except maybe that she has a life-threatening disease of her own. Being sick or caring for someone who is, is a job that we are forced to undertake often without any skills or knowledge of the requirements. And on top of that, we already have a life with responsibilities to family, career, volunteer activities, school and much more. We are afforded no orientation, no adjustment period and no job manual.
What do you do when you and your child are diagnosed with devastating diseases within hours of each other? My first choice was to have a complete nervous breakdown. However, since my child was involved I could not afford myself that luxury. Instead I needed to pull myself together and take control of this crisis – fast!
That’s what mothers do. In the face of calamity we tend to dig deep and pull out our best coping mechanisms to get our family through whatever it is we are facing. My way of coping? Organizing. My penchant for organization enabled me to focus and create detailed lists for every task that needed to be accomplished..
Too many simultaneous stressors cause anxiety, hinder coping mechanisms, and decrease ability to complete normal day to day tasks. By organizing life tasks, plus different components of medical treatments you can alleviate stress and focus on the job of keeping everybody well. To all you moms out there, many who are providing care to several generations of loved ones-my advice is rather than be overwhelmed by the total picture, break down life into tiny little bites that you can handle. Being told you or a loved one has a serious disease invading the body is the ultimate loss of control. Getting organized will help you take back control. My mother’s day gift to you is to share some of my favorite organizing tips from past blogs:
1. Create a health care notebook for you and the family-an ever evolving compilation of important health information. In negotiating our illnesses I found organizing everything into a notebook to be extremely therapeutic and a highly effective way to manage the complicated courses of treatment. Stress was relieved knowing that all of the vital information was consolidated and immediately retrievable.
2. Research and document an accurate family health history. Knowing what “runs in the family” provides an important tool for everyone’s health care.
3. If your house is extremely cluttered consider hiring a professional organizer to guide you in sorting and eliminating extra stuff. De-cluttering leads to de-stressing.
4. Start the downsizing process while there is plenty of time to organize, make your piles and designate who gets what.
5. Part of being organized is taking time to plan. Having a plan for the various aspects of your life (family, job, hobbies, care giving) before a crisis helps you stay on task, better manage your time, be more productive and more efficiently accomplish your goals.
Photo: Robert Daly/Getty Images