Top 10 Things to Look for In a Caregiver
While some of us have caregivers who stick around, many others get diagnosed when alone or some people just can't handle it and leave in the midst of treatment. Regardless of our personal situation and who we have in our support system, it's important to know the characteristics of a good caregiver and I spent some time thinking about it.
An MBC caregiver role is a tough one to fill
Here are the top ten (10) things I think we should all look for in a caregiver while living with a serious or chronic illness like cancer and particularly metastatic cancer:
Emotional Intelligence (a/k/a "EQ") is key.
We all go through so much emotionally and we need a caregiver who is able to handle their own emotional needs and also be supportive to us in the rollercoaster of emotions associated with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC).
Independence is really important.
A caregiver needs to be able to get their needs met independently, take care of themselves generally, and have the financial ability to care for themselves.
Previous caregiving experience is a huge plus.
My husband took care of his father through three (3) strokes before I met him and I saw that pattern of caregiving in his life well before my own diagnosis.
Genuine compassion and concern for others are also very important.
We need caregivers who are able to look beyond themselves and show care and compassion for others.
Consistency is an element that can be overlooked.
At the same time, for those of us who are living longer with a serious illness, having a caregiver who sticks around and continues to show up for us.
Caregivers who are open to getting help themselves.
They can be a rare breed as I've often heard from others, particularly those male caregivers. Those of us dealing with a serious illness are not able to be as supportive to our partners post-diagnosis and that means our caregivers need to be open to getting help elsewhere. This can look like therapy, support groups, talking with other caregivers, etc.
While it may seem basic, a caregiver should not have a criminal history.
Especially a history of domestic violence. People who react with violence in stressful situations are not a good fit for someone whose life has become super stressful.
A person who is addicted to a substance or lifestyle or behavior is not a good fit for a caregiver.
They don't have the ability to care for themselves let alone someone else with needs.
It's imperative for caregivers to be in good health.
And have good health habits themselves because caring for people who are ill takes an extreme toll.
It's important that a caregiver has the literal time to be a caregiver.
So the person can't be involved with so many other priorities that there is no room for all of the doctor's appointments and the other craziness that happens with a serious illness like MBC.
So, those are my top ten characteristics to look for in a caregiver and now it's your turn. Does my list resonate with you? What would you add or delete?
Do you find it easy to advocate for yourself?