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Caregiving with Love

5 Tips for Better Healing

by Guy Magar

Wellness image

Guy Magar

Whether it’s your wife, husband, or child, or a relative or close friend you’re caring for, it is paramount that you become the best caregiver possible for your loved one. As a caregiver for my wife, Jacqui, during her brave journey to beat acute myeloid leukemia, here is what I learned.

1. Be the trusted advocate.
No matter the illness, the healing journey is lengthy and complicated, especially if the battleground is cancer. It is important that you, the caregiver, understand the treatment the doctor has initiated and that all questions have been answered, including the many what ifs and whens. If you need to research various options or get second opinions, make it happen. If you need a clinical trial, find one. If your loved one is overwhelmed or can’t focus, they must know you are their responsible advocate. If they do, they will feel protected, loved, and empowered to focus on their part – the healing.

2. Become a cocoon around your loved one.
Every day I’d get into Jacqui’s bed, and we’d hug tightly as she’d wrap herself around me while we chatted or napped. I always made sure she felt totally surrounded by my love, my strength, and my positive attitude. As a caregiver, you have to supply that grounding, that safety net. No matter how bad or doubtful your loved one may feel, you have to provide an unconditional, unbending, concrete tower of absolute certainty about positive progress. As caregiver, you must be the unmovable rock of strength and security – a granite-strong cocoon.

The more you take on your shoulders,
the less remains on theirs.

3. Don’t just be present, be a partner.
You work as a team, in partnership with your loved one, to be there and support them through any and all treatments, from MRIs to IV line cleanings. Whether double-checking with the nurses which drugs they’re hooking up, making sure the bed is made, scheduling appointments with physical therapists, or dealing with meal and snack orders, you are there to handle the many details that make up daily hospital life. An unspoken team partnership is crucial for caregivers to bring to the table for their loved one to rely on. It was my commitment to make sure Jacqui felt I was engaged with the journey 24/7. She knew it, she felt it, and she counted on it.

4. Keep your loved one active and involved.
Sometimes it’s just being there to open the shades and point out how beautiful the sunrise is that morning. Sometimes it’s sharing an important front-page story in the news, or breaking out a favorite game to encourage their competitive spirit. Sometimes it’s playing a CD of oldies but goodies and getting up to do some crazy dance steps to get a laugh, or better still, to get them to dance, even if it means they’re standing on your feet because they are too weak to stand on their own. It’s important for the caregiver to keep their loved one involved with the outside world.

5. Arrange for small doses of one-on-one time with friends and family.
Some concentrated time between your loved one and a dear friend or family member can be restorative. Have a special friend come over for 10 minutes to an hour (depending on how your loved one is feeling that day), and occupy yourself with a task nearby. This way you can be summoned easily if needed, but they still have some privacy and a small sense of normalcy. If you need to regroup, grab a coffee with a friend or get on the phone with a college buddy. Do whatever it takes to remain strong, clear-minded, and balanced. Your own good mental outlook is crucial to your partner.

As caregiver, you must become the dependable all-around partner for your loved one, and if you can do that effectively and incorporate these five tips, he or she can relax, heal, and know they are not alone on this arduous journey. The more you take on your shoulders, the less remains on theirs. This includes everything else going on with your home, financial concerns, and keeping family and friends informed. I was busy, as all caregivers are, but every single day, I am deeply grateful for Jacqui’s healing at City of Hope in Duarte, CA.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

TV and film director, writer, and producer Guy Magar has worked for more than 30 years in the motion picture industry. His credits include Battlestar Galactica, The A-Team, La Femme Nikita, and Children of the Corn: Revelation. Guy is the author of Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot: A Filmmaker’s Journey into the Lights of Hollywood and True Love, KissMeQuickBeforeIShoot.com.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, July/August 2012.