When you go through a caregiving experience, it can seem odd and even unreal. Dealing with physicians and “hospital speak” may make you feel as if you’re in some bizarre alternate world. It may help you to realize that this is a universal human phenomenon. You are not alone in the experience or in facing these challenges. Here are some insights to help you survive and, yes, spiritually grow.
1. Assume the Role of the Caregiver
You are now the advocate. Make sure your loved one is getting the best medical care possible. Your job is not to “play doctor,” but to find the most competent and caring physicians you can. Work with medical professionals you can trust to guide you and your loved one through these difficult times. As you find strength you never knew you had, make sure you save some for your own life. One of the hazards of caretaking is sacrificing yourself in the process.
2. Deal with One Thing at a Time
During times of actual crisis, don’t project or worry about the future. Deal with the immediate only. Pick out the closest goal or target. Don’t begin to worry about what will or might occur down the road. Don’t dwell on how traumatic these events are for everyone in the family. This will only increase your anxiety and distress. Pick the next step and place one foot in front of the other; concentrate fully on that. Your worry about the future is a waste of your energy during times of crisis. Furthermore, your predictions may be entirely erroneous.
3. Acknowledge Your Emotional Distress
Fear is the most basic of emotions. When a parent or loved one is ill or incapacitated, it can make you feel like a child again. The shocking awareness, in childhood, that we are separate beings whose parents cannot protect us is a feeling that never truly dissipates. The fear of being alone rushes back precipitously when we are reminded of our loved one’s mortality. It is important to know that you will have moments of deep sadness and hopelessness when you see your loved one suffering, and that is a natural reaction.