God gave me a wonderful opportunity to attend a women's conference in TX this month! In the midst of the busyness of packing, travel, etc. I asked my mom if she would write this week's blog post and share some of her wisdom about being an effective caregiver. She's done an excellent job! I know her insights will be a help and blessing to many people.
From Jan Harris -
Joanna has been busy packing and traveling this week, so I offered to help. The following was my assignment from her. =) Hopefully you can pass this blog post on to someone who will find it helpful. May God bless you.
Tips on Helping Someone with Environmental Illness
1. Learn to count to 100. Living with EI sufferers takes a lot of patience. There is no way we as caregivers can understand all the environmental reactions and their repercussions. We have to trust that something in the environment is causing symptoms and do what we can to find and eliminate it.
2. Accept the fact that even though you can’t smell something, the smell still exists. EI people have an unusual sense of smell which helps protect them from difficult situations.
3. Maintain a sense of humor. Anytime you can help an ill person laugh, you have helped them get better! Find the humorous aspects of life whenever possible. Be willing to be silly. Find funny movies to watch together. Tell jokes. Sing funny songs—even if you can’t carry a tune!
4. Maintain hope. Some EI people see so many doctors and try so many treatments that they finally just give up. My philosophy was, I’ll listen to and pray about any suggestion. If you let God lead you, He will help you discern which treatments are valid. Certainly we saw some “doctors” who were “quacks.” But we found others who were genuinely helpful. Only God can guide you in this.
5. Discern when to just give advice and when to say, “This treatment is necessary and we will follow it.” Again, this takes prayer and guidance from God. There’s a fine line here. On one hand, when people are very ill, they often don’t have good judgment, and they need someone else to make the decisions. On the other hand, a caregiver must remember not to trample on the personality of the patient.
6. Discern when to give advice and when to be quiet. With EI people, as with spouses, there are times when circumstances are just right to pass on a little advice. Then there are times that are all wrong. You have to wait patiently for the right time when advice is most apt to be accepted. And then, leave the subject alone. Don’t try to convince the person of anything. Give them time to ponder. Pray, and trust God to work. You may be surprised in a few weeks when your EI patient comes up with the idea as though it were perfectly new! Rejoice! God is at work.
7. Give the physical help that’s needed, but no more. It can be tempting to do everything, but your patient is better served by doing as many of their personal chores as possible. Once again, God can guide you in this.
8. When someone is having a “panic attack,” don’t try to use logic to talk them out of it. You can say things like, “Breathe slowly.” Or “Count backwards from 100.” Or whatever your doctor suggests. You cannot help them with reasons why they should just get over it.
9. Realize that some reactions to environmental issues are emotional. If your patient suddenly gets angry or bursts into tears or some other emotional reaction, there is probably an environmental cause. It does help them to realize the cause is environmental and the emotions will pass.
10. Be willing to make lifestyle changes to help your EI patient. If you can’t burn candles or have plants in the house, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes we have to ask, “How much do I really love this person? Do I love him/her more than I love ______________ “ (Entertaining, having a new couch, flowers on the table, etc.) What we’re really asking is, “Do I love this person more than I love myself?” And once again, it’s only God who gives us this kind of selfless love. Being a caregiver for an EI person does require sacrifices—but then so does anything that is worthwhile.
11. Find things to thank God for. Gratitude is always life-giving.
Summary: I’m sure you noticed that many of these suggestions include, “Pray. Seek guidance from God.” Being in perpetual need of God’s wisdom is a good thing. God wants us to seek Him. He wants to guide us. You can be thankful for that!