Saturday, October 20, 2018

Notes for Caregivers #5 - Caregiving Essentials

"A Story Within" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
I've started an educational endeavor with McMaster University. They are offering a free online course in Caregiving Essentials, teaching us to navigate with confidence issues like becoming a caregiver (including legal and financial information), how to deal with the health care system and get the supports we need, how to take care of ourselves so we can care for someone else and finally we will have access to health and medical information.

Our first task is to own the caregiver role in part by identifying our strengths. We can sometimes feel like we have been handed a difficult and thankless job. Does it take a special kind of person to take on this role? I tend to doubt that but clearly if we can harness our strengths we can reap the rewards that come with caregiving. I am learning that successful caregivers display many of these positive traits: patience, resilience, confidence and compassion. We need to keep ourselves from falling into a pit of despair by regularly identifying our strengths and drawing on them as much as we can while we are "giving care."

The course suggests we ask ourselves these questions to help us identify our strengths:

1. What gives you energy? Activities that draw on your strengths typically make you feel more energized (whereas activities that take you out of your comfort zone might make you feel drained).
I think being an art therapist has been great training for this life. Creative work and problem solving along with serious listening are things that make me feel more energized, skills that worked well in art therapy and now as a caregiver.

2. What are your best character traits? Think back to job reviews, compliments and your own self-reflections. What are you most proud of?
Same as above, although additionally I have been told I am patient. Not sure, but I think that one could use a bit of development.

3. What strengths do you bring to the table when faced with challenges or adversity? How do you overcome challenges?
As I learned from Kelly McGonigal I can use compassion and altruism to overcome challenges and adversity.

4. Now that you have a list of your strengths, how will you leverage them?
I suspect reminding myself to employ my strengths daily would be a very good start.