The Road to Recovery

When Ted Kennedy’s family recently announced that he had a brain tumor, we were reminded of the critical role organization plays in successful, long-term care.

When a person you love is faced with a long-term or debilitating illness, the impact on your day-to-day life can be significant. Navigating these waters as a primary caretaker or simply as a loving supporter with sanity intact requires planning, patience and support. Perhaps the most important rule of thumb to keep in mind during this time is the 80/20 rule. No one can do it all. So rather than obsessing about doing everything, focus on the 20% of tasks that really matter and let go of the rest.

Alicia on ‘Write It Down’

‘When a parent, a spouse, a child, or someone else you love is sick, emotions can run high — and your concentration is liable to fly right out the window. Many people feel during times like this as though they are ‘underwater’ or like they are ‘living in slow motion.’ In addition to the added tasks of caring for your loved one, the uncertainty and stress can divert your remaining attention and energy away from everyday tasks. But the rest of your life doesn’t stop — and you can’t afford to ignore it completely. In times like these, the to-do list can play an important and cathartic role. What you write down gets done! At the start of each day, write down your to-dos and then go through the list and identify the 20 percent of the tasks that are crucial for keeping life on track. Not only will writing down your to-dos make you feel more in control, but taking the added step of prioritizing means you will complete the ones that really matter.’

Sarah on ‘Ask for Help’

‘Illnesses, and their treatments, are demanding and cannot be put on hold. And since the rest of your life cannot be put on hold either, at some point (or rather, many points) along the way, you will need to enlist the help of others. Delegating effectively takes some skill. There will be many concerned people who will offer help, but it will be important right away to get a sense for how much help will really be available. You cannot count on someone to do something unless you are sure that that person will follow through. Therefore, you need to immediately create a list of who can help and how much. That way you will know who to turn to for what kinds of things.’

Here are some other hints to help you through a very difficult time.

#1. Create an Organized Medical Binder
Staying on top of paperwork can be difficult even in the best of times, but when you’re dealing with a health issue, it can be downright overwhelming. We recommend putting a binder together to organize all important treatment information, from diagnosis and treatment regimes, to insurance filings, and correspondence. When you give yourself the peace of mind that comes with having the information you need, when you need it, you can concentrate on what really matters most: getting well.

#2. Patience
Make sure to schedule visit and non-visit times. Of course friends and family members are going to be concerned and want to come by the house or hospital. And visits from loved ones are an important part of the recovery process. But the down side comes when someone wants to visit when a treatment is supposed to begin or rest is called for. This can turn a positive into a stress-inducing negative. Everyone will understand that these non-visit times are necessary but you need a schedule that you can e-mail around for everyone to be on the same page.

#3. Truly the Best Medicine
Both science and anecdotal evidence has long proved that laughter/happiness has a healing ability beyond medicine. And it is easy to get caught up in despair during this rocky road. So, build into the schedule time for funny movies, books and articles. Fill the rooms with positive and humorous images/commentaries. Ask visitors to come prepared to relate any funny anecdotes or daily happenings, no matter how slight. Filling your loved one’s life at this time with positive, life-affirming thoughts and comments will light the path of recovery.