Get support for yourself. It’s important that your help comes from a healthy physical and emotional place. This is not an easy journey for either of you. Asking for and accepting help is one of the most difficult (and important) things a caregiver can do before reaching burnout. Don’t let it reach that point if you can. Many hospitals have social workers on staff to help.
Take care of yourself. There is a good reason that airlines ask caregivers to put their oxygen masks on first in case of an emergency. Make sure you are eating well and getting enough sleep. Your self-care will fuel you to be available for the patient.
Become familiar with GBS. Knowledge is power. Though debilitating, this is a disease that has specific stages. It’s very helpful to know that the acute phase, however frightening, is temporary. Ask a lot of questions. The patient will be assured that you know what is going on with the disease as well as treatment and can act as an advocate.
Contact your local GBS/CIDP chapter. One of the most powerful things you can provide for the patient is a visit from a survivor. Speaking with another human being who has experienced the pain and the paralysis, yet walks into a hospital room with a smile is extremely reassuring.
Be with the patient as much as possible. Losing control of oneself is a frightening experience, and a steady source of encouragement and support is very helpful for the patient. Bring your outside life in—work on a project of any kind in the hospital—knit, write, organize photos, pay bills, read out loud, blog, or bring in news and well wishes from other friends/relatives.
Find a way to communicate. If the patient is on a ventilator, speaking is impossible. Not being able to communicate needs is frustrating. The Foundation has a set of “communication cards” designed by a GBS patient/doctor (contact the Foundation to order the cards). Other options may be available in the hospital.
Listen. This situation is new and frightening to the patient. All feelings are okay. Anger, fear, and depression are all normal reactions to a sudden, debilitating disease.
Bring ‘home’ to the hospital. Photos of loved ones or a favorite painting can provide a sense of belonging. Watching movies and listening to favorite music or books on tape can provide a welcome respite from the realities of living through the acute phase of GBS.