I was caught totally off guard when my dog got sick. It wasn’t on my schedule. In fact, I had plans to go out of town the following morning to visit a friend for the day. But those plans quickly changed when I noticed my miniature dachshund, Zoey, was having trouble breathing earlier yesterday morning.
She had been sneezing for weeks, but I wrote it off as allergies, or the dry heat of the furnace, which has been on almost constantly when the weather turned cold. Until that morning she’d been eating, drinking, and engaging in all of her normal diva routines.
But it turns out that she has pneumonia. (I didn’t even know dogs could get pneumonia.)
As is the case for most caregivers, when a loved one needs us, we quickly shift gears and jump in, focusing our attention solely on the needs of those who are in greater need. But that focused attention often comes at the expense of our own health, which only impairs our ability to care for others.
Fortunately, this particular situation wasn’t so emergent that minutes mattered. I didn’t have to run out of the house in my underwear. No, this time I had a few minutes to think and plan ahead.
My self-care activity for the day involved focusing on being a good caregiver. I had no idea how long the visit to the vet would take, but it was already 2 p.m. and I was pretty certain that I wouldn’t be home before dark, which meant I would need to get the chickens tucked in safely before leaving. I also had no idea if I’d have a chance to stop to eat, so I tossed some water and a few snacks into my purse before leaving the house–but not before remembering to grab a book too.
It’s a good thing I did, because the first emergency veterinarian didn’t have a vet available due to an emergency surgery. And that added another hour’s drive to our commute as we headed to a second veterinary clinic.
While I waited for the results of Zoey’s x-rays, I read my book. I drank some water. I had a snack.
And when I finally arrived back home around 8 p.m., I didn’t feel starved, I didn’t feel dehydrated, and I didn’t even feel exhausted or flustered. My preparation made the difference. And that made me a better caregiver.
How do you prepare yourself to be a good caregiver?