How to Be a Fearless Caregiver
Your Fear is Normal
As the caregiver of someone who is terminally ill, you probably feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you. Your old way of living is gone and your “new normal” involves doing things you never thought you’d have to do and certainly were never trained for. You feel completely out of your league and full of fear.
Whether it’s the fear of how long your loved one’s disease will last, how bad it will get, what will happen if you make a mistake or what will happen to you once your loved one is gone, fear is a normal and reasonable emotion in your situation.
How to Diminish Fear
You can deny your fears or obsess over them, neither of which will make the fear go away. In fact, not addressing your fear or spending too much time worrying about all the “what ifs” can cause negative physical and emotional conditions. Since fear is a reaction to what we perceive as a dangerous situation, it causes the heart to beat faster, increases certain hormones and slows down the digestive system. By denying or obsessing about our fears, we put the body at “high alert” all the time, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.²
The only way to diminish fear is to face it. It’s not easy, but here are three things you can do now to diminish your fears:
Knowledge is power. Whatever your loved one’s condition, learn everything you can about it. Study how it progresses so you will recognize the stages and be prepared for what is ahead. You can contact the local or national organizations associated with your loved one’s condition (e.g., Alzheimer’s Association, American Heart Association, Susan G. Komen, etc.) or find them on the Internet.
Ask questions.Your loved one may have the same disease others have, but each person reacts differently. Ask your doctor and members of your hospice team to explain what is happening to your loved one. With their help, you’ll learn what you need to know to be confident in the care you give. Confidence is the antithesis of fear.
Join a caregiver support group. Caregiver support groups give you the chance to get to know others going through the same situation. Whether you join a face-to-face group or an online discussion board, you’ll learn how others are coping and won’t feel as alone. In fact, you may find you have a lot to offer!
Your fears won’t vanish overnight—it will take time and courage. But if you’re a caregiver, you’ve already discovered you’ve got enough courage to do just about anything.