Many of us are — or will become — a caregiver to a parent, spouse, child or other loved one.
When that happens, you will need to find out a lot about a disease or condition, ask good questions about treatment options, and make the best decisions you can.
But don't be surprised if, like me, you also learn some things you wished you had known earlier.
For the past few years, I was an intermittent "virtual" caregiver to my 82-year-old father, Patrick, who died last fall. Even though he lived 450 miles away, we kept in close touch with regular phone calls and visits.
Like many people his age, my father had several chronic illnesses and previous surgeries. These included lung disease, early Alzheimer's disease, heart problems, and a knee replacement. He took 18 different medicines and was on oxygen at home during his last year of life. He was extremely fortunate to have a terrific wife who helped him manage his medications and appointments. She also was essential to his enjoying his life beyond dealing with health issues.
One of the challenges my family faced was learning how to manage things that became part of my father's daily routine, like his oxygen machine. Other caregivers may have challenges in organizing weekly medicines or arranging transportation to and from various medical appointments. These relatively simple tasks can quickly become more complex when you are caring for a loved one with several ongoing medical needs.
There are resources that help caregivers meet some of these challenges. But finding help can take time and effort when you already have a lot on your plate. Local connections — your friends, church, or workplace — are an important place to look for help.