Meet Maggie DePuye-Phillips!
Not only does Maggie serve as BEST’s board vice president, she has a personal and professional background as a caregiver. Caregiver’s Corner, is an exciting new feature on the BEST blog designed just for you. Maggie is there to offer the support, encouragement, tools and resources to help. You can take part, too: ask a question, share your own tips or take part in the conversation. Check out Maggie’s new column right here!
Welcome to Brain Energy Support Team’s (BEST’s) first edition of Caregiver’s Corner! Part of the BEST mission is to provide support, advocacy, public awareness, education and socialization opportunities to individuals with brain injury and their families. For most in the brain injury (TBI) community, family members are the primary caregivers. As a caregiver and a member of the BEST Board, I decided to help carry out the mission of providing support and advocacy to our BEST caregivers by creating a Caregiver’s Corner. I intend to provide information and resources, upcoming caregiver events, tips from my caregiver toolbox and inspirational stories and quotes.
My goal is to share with you the information and best practices I have learned from my own professional experience as a rehabilitation counselor, as well as from my personal experience as a caregiver, in hopes of empowering you to continue on your own journey as a caregiver.
As this is the first edition, I thought I’d introduce myself.
For six years, I have been a caregiver for a veteran who has a TBI and PTSD as well as foot injuries sustained from a skydiving incident while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. My educational background is in deafness rehabilitation counseling and I have been in the field of providing rehabilitation services for over twenty years in a variety of capacities.
My professional career started at Northern Illinois University (NIU), where I was a counselor, providing direct services for students with disabilities, particularly for the deaf and hard of hearing. I also taught American Sign Language to undergraduate and graduate students during my term at NIU. In addition, I served on several professional organizations at the state and national levels. In 2008, the state eliminated my counseling position due to budget cuts. Seeing that it was time for a change, I moved to Washington State to start a new chapter in my life as a caregiver.
Although I had training as a professional and understood what a traumatic brain injury consisted of and its symptoms, nothing in the classroom prepared me for what I would experience as a caregiver. For most of my life, I have watched my mother be a caregiver for my grandmother, who lived to be 100 years old before she passed away; it was not until I became a caregiver for my partner, that I understood what my mother went through. I am forever grateful to her because unknowingly, I was learning patience, compassion, understanding, kindness, strength, courage, heartache, and even forgiveness. I was being prepped all those years, and only until recently, did I realize how I have been able to navigate this amazing journey of being a caregiver gracefully.
Since relocating to Washington, I became actively involved in my partner’s health care, ensuring that he was receiving the benefits he was entitled to as well as learning the ins-and-outs of the Veteran Administration system (not an easy feat)! I have met so many incredible people within the TBI community who have been very supportive of my partner and his needs. I decided to join BEST team as a board member and eventually became board vice president and I love every minute of it! I am also an active participant in the Caregiver Study program through the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, which was founded by congress to provide state of the art clinical care, innovative clinical research initiatives and educational programs and support for health protection services for the active duty servicemembers and veterans with traumatic brain injuries and their beneficiaries.
Well, enough about me.
As promised, please check out these great finds related to caregiving that I have discovered along the way on my journey as a caregiver.
Information & Resources
Check out this online resource: http://caregiver.org/traumatic-brain-injury. This site has a wealth of information for you to navigate. It may be overwhelming at first, so take your time and peruse at your own leisure.
Need a support group?
Check out http://www.altsa.dshs.wa.gov/Resources/clickmap.htm
Sometimes time does not allow you to travel to a support group. Fortunately, there are online support groups through various social media. I particularly enjoy Veteran Caregiver on Facebook because I can read their status updates and comment at my own leisure and get that warm fuzzy feeling when needed. There are many others, too, and in future editions, I will be sure to share them with you.
Challenges in Caregiving, Giving Care, Taking Care-A Conference for Family Caregivers sponsored by DSHS and ALTSA, June 2, 2014; follow this link for more information: http://www.altsa.dshs.wa.gov/caregiving/documents/2014/Challenges%20in%20Caregiving%202014.pdf.
From my caregiver toolbox, I will share various tips to help you become more effective as a
caregiver. Here are two to start with:
Use a checklist to keep track of what needs to be done and remind you of what still needs to be done. Some use plain paper and pen while others use checklist templates downloaded from the internet. For those who are tech savvy, you can download checklist apps onto your phone to keep you on track.
To effectively promote clear communication and function as a caregiver, create and maintain a comprehensive file of information of the person you are caring for. Use a binder or other types of organizational tools to keep information as medical history, list of medications, emergency phone numbers, legal information and copies of legal documentation such as living will, power of attorney, insurance information, benefit information and other important pieces of information.
From time to time, I come across some books or even stories online about caregivers and their journeys. Here are two recommendations, both from the same author, Wendy Lustbader. I have personally met Ms. Lustbader and she is a dynamic speaker, whom I have had the pleasure of seeing at several different conferences I attended over the last few years. She is a nationally recognized icon in the field of aging. As an associate professor at the University of Washington and a psychotherapist, she has written several books, including Counting on Kindness, and created a video called A Prescription for Caregivers: Take Care of Yourself. Enjoy them both:
Here are two inspirational quotes to share with you. From time to time, I read quotes to help me get through the day. I trust that sharing them with you will also inspire you, too.
Every day in every way, I am getting better and better. Émile Coué
Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Eckhart Tolle
I am very grateful to the BEST team for honoring my request to start the Caregiver Corner as my way to give back to the TBI community. I am truly excited about this new venture and would love to have your support. Please feel free to reach out to me for any caregiver-related questions or to simply share resources that you may have come across on your journey.
And always remember, embrace the moment!