The #1 Thing Not to Do When Caregiving

Amy Luscher Smith   •   March 15, 2019

text message

My beautiful caregiver, is this you? You’re rushing through the grocery to get dad’s meds and a few veggies for your lunch before you go back to work. Ding! Aunt Mary wants to know how dad is today, so you shoot off a quick text message. While picking out your bananas, ding! The pastor’s secretary needs your mom’s hospital room number for the prayer newsletter, so you text it. Ding! Your grandmother texts from the nursing home that she needs a few things while you’re at the grocery, so you ask her to text you the list. While paying for your items, ding! Ding! Three more text messages from lovely caring friends who ask for the latest medical update.

Is your phone becoming a source of panic and anxiety for you? Do you check it when your eyes open in the morning? Is it the last thing you look at before you go to sleep? Does it interrupt you during your work day? Do you feel overwhelmed by the need to always respond to someone about something? Do you live in fear that the next “ding!” will be the bad news you always seem to be anticipating?

My dear friend, the number one thing NOT to do when caregiving is allow your phone to control your life.

Please hear me when I say that text messaging has been a lifesaver for me and, likely, all the members of my family when we have been in situations where we are sharing caregiving duties for our loved one. When did mom last take her medicine? Who is sitting with dad today at the hospital? Where did we put that insurance card once we made the copy for the physical therapist?

The ability to answer these questions and stay connected as a caregiving team while continuing about our daily lives is invaluable. Texting empowers caregivers and patients and helps make certain that everyone has access to the most recent medical information and support needs. Caution: If you are a paid caregiver or nonfamily member, remaining HIPAA compliant with confidential medical information is important to address before using texting as a means of communication.

Caregivers give the attention they do because they love and care about their loved ones. When you feel overwhelmed, ask yourself if your phone may be causing some of the anxiety. If so, build in some screen-free time for yourself, even if only for a few minutes. Take a walk. Focus on your breathing. Read a few pages of a book. If you can, find someone to replace you for a few hours and have a nice meal, see a movie, or meet a friend for coffee. You have so much love to give others; make sure you share a little with your beautiful self.

How does your cell phone impact your life as a caregiver? In what ways could taking a screen break once in a while help you give better care for your loved one? How can you make one change tomorrow that allows you to better care for you, my lovely?