“Don't forget to breathe."
How many times have you heard someone say, “Don't forget to breathe" and then thought to yourself of course I'll breathe, that’s just common sense! Believe it or not, that expression became my mantra while caring for my husband, Paul, during the past 18 months.
It finally resonated after I noticed how many people were asking me if I was OK. The funniest incident was when I realized after a lengthy conversation with Paul's doctor, I had a teardrop piece of lettuce plastered to my chest like a pendant. At that point I was running on empty.
Initially, I didn't take breaks and ignored all advice to take care of myself. It caught up with me. I realized I needed to rest and find an outlet to recharge. These are some things that worked for me.
Before Paul's stem cell transplant, we were required to have an alternate caregiver. I chose my in-laws and while they never had to take over, what they did was invaluable. They served as my personal support team. Knowing they were there for me allowed me to breathe. I suggest every caregiver choose an alternate. People want to help and by assigning them this role they will ultimately be there for you.
During Paul's hospital stays, as much as I wanted to, I didn't stay overnight. I thought how can I leave him, I won’t sleep at all. Wrong, the minute I got home, I was out like a light. Leaving the hospital allowed me to return the next morning bright and refreshed.
An excellent resource offered at Moffitt is the Integrative Medicine Program. I suggest you take advantage of all they have to offer. As an inpatient, you can request to have the facilitator come to your room. Paul really enjoyed the massages. We both benefitted from chair yoga and a musician from Arts In Medicine helped more than words can say. I also went to the Arts In Medicine room on the 3rd floor; the soft music is inviting and they offer many activities - painting, drawing, etc.
Intentional breathing such as yoga and meditation is helpful but “breathing” can mean so much more. Putting together a jigsaw puzzle, taking a walk (no cell phone), exercising, planning an activity or something to make Paul smile, were also ways of “breathing” for me.
So the most truthful advice I can give to a fellow caregiver is simply common sense, and that is to breathe, just allow yourself to slow down and breathe. No rocket science here! How you choose to breathe is up to you.
*For more information about the services offered by the Integrative Medicine Program, including massage, please call 813-745-4630.
*For more information about the Arts In Medicine Program, including the Open Arts Studio, located in the Muriel Rothman Building, (B elevators), please call 813-745- 8407.
Content for this story is from PARTNERS summer 2014; a newsletter of the Patient and Family Advisory Program. For more information about the Patient and Family Advisory Program, please email Kim.Buettner@Moffitt.org or call 813-745-1390.