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Eight rules for when a loved one is hospitalized.

Get medical advice from a professional.
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Discussions here are intended for information and dialog only. Talk with your healthcare professional before making decisions or taking actions that may affect your health.

Version 1.0 | Update 10Jul11
Written by Paul Quin
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Caring for others

Growing older, dealing with HIV infection and co-infections, this life tends to be a complex pattern of being cared for woven in with caring for others.

Taking care of someone else requires understanding the possible. This checklist may help you as caregiver – and to maintain your own health + sanity.

Put on your own mask before helping others.

This airline notice has always confronted my deep conviction: I'm indestructible but you need help. Flight attendants keep saying this. I never quite believe them. But after some years as primary caregiver for a husband in intense chemotherapy, the wisdom of the airways has begun to penetrate. I now have a list:

Take care of yourself first.

If you are tired, hungry, hung over, stiff, sore, frustrated . . . you won't be able to give what your charge needs. You take time to visit other friends, now, and treat yourself once in a while. Keep your health and spirits up or you can't hold another above the waves.

Let others contribute.

This is no contest. Letting others help has three benefits: They feel useful. You get a rest. Your charge gets a new personality around. All important. Cooked meals are great – fairly easy, flexible work schedule, can be done at home. An occasional chauffeur also great, or someone who runs your errands while doing their own.

Don't steal the fire.

Wanting to help, one can easily over-help. When a task is within your charge's reach, leave them to it. Even if it would, in truth, be simpler to do it yourself. As with children, the twins Responsibility + Authority are life-savers. Challenges speed healing. The spirit thrives on small successes. If you want someone to get better, treat them as if they are better.

Learn about the issues.

Understand your charge's condition and the arc of their recovery. Know which symptoms signal trouble. Get suggestions for activities that productively challenge their body to heal. Keep abreast of therapies + options. Get to know the medical staff; have them keep you informed.

Organize the details.

Put important papers + records in a file or binder. Establish routines – this helps both of you. Take regular breaks for fresh air, a sip of water, a little reading or meditation. Let your charge be in charge of their own routines. At best, this is a cooperative venture.