Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate: Dr. Cynthia Speaks:
Topic: Coping with Caregiving Responsibilities
When we hear or read the word,’ coping,’ related to caregiving, does one’s mind go to the terms of stress and burnout? Why is that? Did you know that coping is the use of an array of countless techniques that attempt to reduce feelings of stress and discomfort that occurs from a situation or event? These dynamic responses may be grouped into words like secure/insecure, effective/ ineffective, or adaptive/ maladaptive strategies.
The lack of preparation in many life situations can elicit coping responses. Does it have much to do with the lack of knowledge and understanding? A biblical stance reminds us that “people perish from the lack of knowledge.” While this reflection is in consideration of the journey of life for handling events in life, it leans toward when you know better, you do better. I am by no means suggesting you are rejecting your role as a potential or actual caregiver, but if you were thrust into the caregiver role, the lack of preparation is usually based on a lack of knowledge. As we watched our parents and loved one's age, we bypass ‘The What Ifs’ of life. The responsibility of caring for someone is huge, but it can be done if we prepare. I am the first to say there are no right or wrong answers. So much of caregiving centers on timing and flexibility, areas where coping is essential. As the demands of our loved ones increase, considering a bigger big picture decreases the need for coping strategies because you are clear on required responsibilities. I want to suggest a few tips for your consideration.
Consider Seeking Knowledge Fulfilment
Learn as much as you can about your new role. There are support groups and agencies that stand ready to give guidance. Some consultants can steer you in the right direction. You have to ask. This is the first way of taking care of yourself. Remember, any new role has hiccups. Know that we all have flaws and imperfections. The important goal is to learn from new challenges. It will develop your abilities as a caregiver. Most important… You want to be truthful with your feelings while working with your loved ones.
Negative feelings and emotions should be kept at bay. Anger and frustration limit your ability to care for your loved one. It is crucial to center yourself around positive people with positive energy. The final piece of advice I would like to add, before you can take care of others, taking care of yourself is vital. It is essential. It is required. It is the message I am sharing. We all have weaknesses. Dwelling on them does not make them go away. Taking action to learn from them. Seeking help should always be your weapon of choice.
As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, I am encouraging you to embrace the tasks that encompass the caregiving space. I don’t want you to just ‘cope,’ I want you to thrive, even with all the flaws and imperfections we all have. Again, as you care for others, you must care for yourself!
Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is a retired registered nurse and case manager; CEO of Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate and author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor, and The Black Book of Important Information for Caregivers.