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Practical Caregiving

Thanks -- a Small Word with Big Meaning

By Jean Donahue

I have been writing this column for over two years now. It has been a wonderful experience for me. Thank you so much for reading my column and sending me your questions and comments.

You may wonder what goes into writing a column like this. Let me explain how it all works.

Before I even get to writing the column, I answer emails with questions about their particular caregiving situation. I thoroughly enjoy connecting with those of you who are taking care of your loved ones. You all want the best for your loved one, and that can be very difficult and frustrating. And, your loved one doesn't always make it easy.

None of us want to be forced to take care of our loved ones. We want them to be healthy and happy all through their life, but most of the time that doesn't happen.

Sometimes I know what might help you in your situation, and sometimes I don't. When I don't, I start researching and calling people (experts in the field) who might know. Sometimes I find what I need fairly quickly. Other times I need to spend more time finding a possible solution. In all situations, I learn. I do wish my mind would remember everything perfectly, but it doesn't. That's where the computer comes in. I save it on my computer (which I back-up). I don't want to lose it. It is important, and I will probably need it again.

When I ask other people for their input, I don't always get their reply as soon as I would like. Sometimes it takes 2-4 weeks -- or longer -- before they reply to my questions. Thus, I keep a file with current questions that I have not answered.

Then, I write the weekly column. The question and answer columns don't take as long as the other columns because I have already found answers to the questions. I look through the questions I have been sent, and put together a column. I usually rewrite my answer so that it will help other people instead of just that one person. It takes around two hours to write the question and answer columns.

For the other columns, I first develop an idea to write about. I search through my emails, watch the newspapers, check other caregiving websites, listen to the news and even ask my co-workers if they have any ideas. Several of them are taking care of their parents. (I have a full-time job to pay the bills.)

After I have the subject for a column, I search the internet, newspapers and other sources for good information. I need to stay away from information that might not be accurate or helpful, so I am always on guard for wrong information. Anything I use is verified by more than one legitimate source. Then I put all the information together and print it out. That can be anywhere from 10-60 pages of information. I sit down with a highlighter and highlight what I consider to be good information that I might use. Next I cut out the information I don't want to use (in the computer). Then I print it again. I look through it once again for duplicate information, then I read it thoroughly. I take a break for a day or two to let the information formulate in my mind, then I am ready to write the column.

Sometimes I feel "inspired" when writing the column, and sometimes it is more work than anything. Either way, it's important to give you, my reader, correct information that might help you. The final stage of actually writing the column usually takes a couple hours.

I am human and sometimes I don't "feel" like writing this column, but it is that way with everything we do in life. I had a terrible time getting the information I needed when I was taking care of my parents, and I have this deep desire to help others that are taking care of their loved ones. It is such a frustrating and traumatic time for you, the family caregiver, and your loved one. I want to make it easier for you if I can.

I hope this next year is a good year for all of you. You all have a basic desire to do a good job of taking care of your loved one, and that is something that is priceless.