It can happen in an instant or it may have been coming for a while. The results are the same. Circumstances change and your life is altered forever. One minute you are a carefree spirit and the next you are a caregiver. You, literally, go from a person with manageable responsibilities to a person with overwhelming responsibilities.
Caregivers are thrust into a role they are often unprepared for. They are also not prepared for the intensity of feelings and emotions they suddenly experience. They are surprised at how overextended and drained they feel.
They are caught off guard by the number of feelings and emotions they encounter such as; guilt, anger, sadness, loneliness, depression, frustration, resentment, discouragement and fear. They also experience a great deal of anxiety about the future and the escalation of the individual’s decline. It is normal to fear how difficult or impossible it may be when the person deteriorates even more and the burdens increase, especially, if they feel that they are not coping well with situation as it is. Caregivers suffer from compassion fatigue and emotional exhaustion. Everyone has heard stories about the caregiver being the one to die first. It is not that rare. How are you going to cope and survive the situation and ordeal?
If you are a caregiver you will need to follow a list of Do’s and Don’ts to survive. Caregiver Do’s; rest, trust, let go, do your best, look for the irony or humor in the situation.
Caregiver Don’ts; don’t be ashamed of your feelings, don’t be a perfectionist, choose wisely, don’t become overwhelmed, don’t judge yourself, don’t criticize yourself, don’t take anything personally, don’t give up.
Here are some Caregiver Survival Tips; ask for help, develop a support system, develop time management skills, set boundaries, take time for yourself, deal with emotions or feelings, practice relaxation techniques, forgive the patient, forgive yourself, forgive God or the Universe. Talk to someone. Sympathy and understanding make a difference. Things will get better.
Patricia Frank is a Licensed Psychotherapist. She can be reached at 305-788-4864, 212-308-0309.