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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN  / The Fear Factor /   Editorial List

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 The Fear Factor

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A reader asked me recently about how we can talk about “fearless caregiving” since there is so very much fear inherent in caregiving. She found the fact that we could use the word “fearless” when talking about caregiving to be, at best, unrealistic.

What a wonderful question to start off the New Year. I would be lying if I said that I do not feel fear when dealing with any new challenge to a loved one’s health and well-being. Sometimes at these moments, fear is the only possible emotion. But that’s precisely when it is most appropriate to begin the enterprise of becoming a Fearless Caregiver. I would never advise people to ignore their fears or hide from them. In fact, fear is a most valuable tool for family caregivers.

Did you ever notice how effortlessly a skilled pilot can take a mass of metal safely into the air, or how a surgeon can wend her way around vital organs and not only keep the patient alive, but actually solve their medical problems? I guarantee you that before they took the controls or the scalpel in hand for the first time, they were plenty scared. The thing that helped them was the knowledge that they could deal with most anything that was thrown at them, in the cockpit or the operating room, since they had hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours of practice before picking up a scalpel or entering the cockpit of a plane loaded with passengers. That is what helps create their sense of fearlessness—not a lack of fear, but a better understanding of the issues they may be facing when flying a plane or operating on a patient. As a family caregiver, we unfortunately do not always have that luxury of advanced preparation; our battle generally starts with a phone call in the middle of the night or a diagnostic visit to the doctor’s office.

What we do have is the fact that there are so many other family and professional caregivers who each possess one small piece of the puzzle you need as a family caregiver. What are your options when dealing with Medicare? What worked for them as they tried to get their loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease to eat? How do you get your concerns heard when your loved one is in a hospital or long-term care facility?

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