Welcome to Caregiver Friday!
Ever feel that once you assumed the role of caregiver that you automatically became a magnet for every negative emotion in the world from those around you? Ever wonder how things you did every day before the patient got sick that were fine are now the bane of their existence? Ever wonder why you have become the human fly paper for the negative emotions expressed by the care recipient? I could go on and on but I think you’ve got the point.
The truth is that the care recipient (the patient) is going through enormous turmoil and they are, as the Buddhists say, leaking. They have a reduced capacity to govern their feelings because they are overwhelmed…and so are you. The difference is some say the illness is a “get out of jail free card” for their behavior. The truth of that statement doesn’t matter, the outcome is what matters. So what’s the new mantra for caregivers?
“This Has Nothing To Do With Me”
The reason that the emotion is directed your way is because you are there. You have devoted your time, energy and compassion to assisting the patient in getting well. It’s not that they don’t appreciate it, but if they spoke to or treated friends the way they speak and treat you at times those folks would be gone. The first question to confront is what truth is there in the complaint. We’re all at fault at times so keeping your side of the street clean is primary. This doesn’t mean you should hold back how you feel, but definitely choose your battles.
The mantra “This has nothing to do with me” should be tattooed on the palm of your hand. You’re going to need a constant reminder so if you’re not into tattoos then consider post-it notes on the mirror of your bathroom, by the telephone or by the computer. It’s going to take some time to say that fly paper is all dried up, the magnet turned off and the complaint department closed.
Understand that this doesn’t mean you stop caring for the person, but you are refusing to take on their emotional turmoil when you have enough of your own. It’s okay to set parameters for dialogue. Discussions are good, arguments don’t serve any purpose.
Some may say that you shouldn’t judge a person before you walk a mile in their shoes. We’re not judging the person with the illness. We’re creating a container of understanding by visualizing their leaking emotions. For some of the folks you’re caring for it may seem like a breach in a nuclear reactor so you may need to say your mantra over and over again. It’s kind of like the 12 step programs and the serenity prayer. When people need a moment to regroup they say the serenity prayer to ground themselves.
I hope you can see that by accepting this new mantra you’re not becoming uncaring; in fact I think you’re extending your care because now you have a new level of understanding. Instead of feeling bogged down by the anger or frustration by the patient you can chalk it up to a breach in the nuclear reactor.
How are you handling the frustration expressed by the care recipient? This is an important aspect of caregiving because left unresolved it leaves you, the caregiver, feeling unappreciated and that leads to resentment.
If you have a mantra that gets you through your caregiving experience please share it with us. The goal is to create a strong caregiving community full of resources and support.
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