Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!
Summer has officially begun and the 4th of July is right around the corner. One way this becomes clear is that there are a number of stands selling fireworks throughout the area. Unfortunately in my household there is a scaredy cat…or rather a scaredy dog. My dog Bella is terrified by the sounds of the firework and once they begin she retreats to the corner behind the couch and the end table; a cramped little space where she feels safe. She hides back there because, as we all know, those shooting the fireworks don’t stop after one firecracker. She’s well aware of this so she takes measures to make herself safe.
The same is true in caregiving. It’s a role that doesn’t end until the person is either healed or cured, and the road to recovery is filled with twists and turns. Is it really any wonder why caregiver stress and caregiver burnout are rampant in our culture. We expect you, the caregiver, to provide 24/7 care without backup, training, resources, or any other relief strategies. There are self-help books and support groups and those are great, but they don’t alleviate the anticipation of waiting for the other shoe to drop with the one you love.
Caregiving is wrought with anticipation. It leaves you, the caregiver, a little edgy at times because there is no protective barrier for you the way you serve as protection for the person facing the chronic or life-threatening illness. The anticipation is heightened because you feel vulnerable and exposed. In many cases you are the liaison between the patient and the doctor and let’s face it; the messenger is the one who always gets shot.
So how will you deal with your anticipation? Anticipation is rooted in anxiety, and in this case the anxiety is rooted in fear (kind of the domino theory of caregiving). It can be draining and exhausting unless you set procedures in place for self-care. This is one of the times when a family meeting is very important because everyone needs to be on the same page. Caregiving is not a one person show, it’s an ensemble cast. Who is responsible for what in your circle? Think of it as being a project manager. Different people have different responsibilities and you hold those people accountable for their activities and responsibilities.
Waiting for the other shoe to drop is terrifying so the first and most important activity is to consider what makes you the most anxious. Taking a personal inventory of your own concerns and Achilles heal is vital. I know, for me, that illness isn’t the big anxiety producing event, but pain and suffering raises my anxiety factor. Everyone has that one or couple of things that sends their anticipatory anxiety through the roof. Know what it is and find ways to curb that anxiety. Support groups are great because you may find others who have the same fears and you can become a band of brothers/sisters.
Anticipation may be great when waiting for Heinz ketchup to come out of the bottle, but it is counter-productive for your own physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. What are you going to do to lessen the impact of anticipation?