How to Become a Better Caregiver
By Dan Zeorlin
Being a caregiver can be overwhelming at times. And becoming a better caregiver involves some discipline and hard work. The hardest part about being the caregiver of a person living with cancer is dealing with feelings of helplessness. That’s why it is important to develop an ability to make a difference in ways that are meaningful to your loved one.
My wife Linda’s breast cancer developed unexpectedly. Some of our roles reversed. I became more supportive and loving. I learned to trust and was inspired by Linda’s faith. I lived with a heightened sense of endearment and tenderness. We achieved greater harmony as a couple and were blessed with forgiveness, growth, and peace.
We shared the experience of various stages of cancer–discovery, treatment, and recuperation–and did not become fixated on the cure. The clinicians did their part in monitoring progress; as a caregiver, I learned how to do my part by bringing the following positives into focus.
Advocate for Change A caregiver should become an advocate for change. Resolve to make a plan and stick to it. Caregivers cannot be passive observers and must act when change is required.
Change Your Perception Caregivers are affected by many experiences, real and perceived. My wife’s cancer was real. The idea that cancer was bad or an unrecoverable event was perceived. The feeling that I was alone and without support, deprived of recourse was also perceived. So I spent energy convincing myself that our situation was not hopeless. Caregivers need to shrug off the impossible and concentrate on those things that are still viable.
Focus on Priorities A caregiver has little tolerance for foolishness. Priorities shift and some things no longer seem important as they once were. Learn to let go and do things out of love. You hope your actions will be so inspiring that the disease loses its grip on the life you cherish.
Accept That You Won’t Know Everything Nobody wants to be unprepared, disoriented, or clueless in a serious dilemma. Our problem is that we are preconditioned to be a worldly people. Acknowledge that you will not always know the right answer.
Encourage Hopefulness One of the first things I learned about cancer was that no two cancers are identical. Throw out the stereotypes. Just as no two people are the same, no two courses of cancer treatment have exactly the same results.
Improve Communication The caregiver has to find words to describe feelings and improve communication. Have the courage to say, “This happened and it makes me feel…” Until we recognize, acknowledge, and accept our circumstances, we do not move on or improve the situation.
At times you may feel like an escapee. You may be ashamed. You may feel unworthy. You may not be selfish but you definitely won’t feel selfless. You will never want to repeat this ordeal. As a caregiver you are called on to love someone more than life itself. Caregivers must find a way to say, “Life will get better.”
Reprinted by permission of COPING® magazine ****www.copingmag.com*****
Write to clarify life and meaning for yourself. “Self-help”. After a long period of writing, you may be able to pick out relevant thoughts that others can relate to, but for now, just write to soothe the riot in your mind.
Author Contact Information: Dan Zeorlin ****firstname.lastname@example.org*****