A caregiver’s job is no easy task. It's a job that often comes with physical, emotional and sometimes financial costs. Yet, there's no doubt about it, caregiving can be very satisfying as well.
One of the many challenges of being a caregiver involves knowing what to say or do, and when. It's common to question yourself, wonder if you're doing the right thing or if you've said the right thing. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but we offer a few tips that may help.
Let them talk. He or she may bring up uncomfortable topics, talk ad nauseum about their family or illness or past jobs, or they may want to discuss personal things that you prefer not to discuss, especially if it's a family member you're caring for. Let them speak. If they are in need of the care you are providing, they may also need the emotional release that talking things out can provide.
It's okay to say, "I don't know". Because you're the care provider, it is sometimes assumed that you have the answer to everything. Saying that you don't know vs. being evasive will prevent you from appearing to be hiding something. It will also help you avoid providing incorrect information.
It's okay to cry. When we were young children our parents often said "Don't cry" with concern and empathy in their voice. But the truth is that crying is beneficial for us. Cry with your patient, cry yourself to sleep. Crying is OK!
Resist the urge to shrug things off with common phrases. "Everything will be fine" is not a phrase a terminally ill patient can resonate with. Saying "I know how you feel" if you've never been in their situation isn't comforting either. In fact, these phrases that we so easily let slip from our tongue can sometimes cause anger and frustration. Instead, saying "I don't know how this must feel to you but I am here to go through it with you" may be a more comforting statement for you both.
Respond to anger carefully. While anger is a natural human emotion, chronically ill people sometimes allow anger to consume them or come out in ways and times that aren't so natural. Rather than responding to their anger, take a deep breath, listen and determine what is worth responding to and what is better left alone.
Just as everyone's need for a caregiver is unique, every caregiver's journey is unique as well. Give yourself some self-love and realize you won't do everything perfectly and that's just fine.
One of the challenges facing caregivers is the inability to be with your loved one 24/7. With that in mind, we would encourage you to make sure they have a medical alert device installed in their home. This gives them the added security of knowing they have emergency personnel at the push of a button. It also allows you to be more confident of leaving them alone.