Tuesday Tips for Caregivers – Tips for Maintaining Hope
For Caregivers and Their Loved Ones: Tips for Maintaining Hope
Give a voice to your secret longings, wishes, and dreams. If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for? Maybe it’s turning back the hands of time and taking the car keys away from your father—instead of sitting at his hospital bedside where he is recovering from the car accident he caused.
Maybe it’s imagining that you’ll turn on the news and learn of a new miracle cure for the cancer that’s taking over your mother’s body, or for the dementia that’s erasing your grandmother’s memories.
Hope might be something simple, like a good night’s sleep for you and your loved one. Say it out loud: “We could use a good night’s sleep.”
Define the reality. In the course of caring for tens of thousands of patients, we’ve seen miracles happen. However, most people experience likely events. Grasp an understanding of your current reality based on what’s most likely to happen naturally.
When caregivers and loved ones define the most likely outcome, it helps you decide where to place your hopes. For example, a friend of mine who is a family doctor told me of a conversation between him and a loving mother whose 6-year-old child had a relapse of leukemia after a bone marrow transplant. There was an experimental treatment offered halfway across the country, and the mother wanted to know where to take her child: to a new hospital across the country for lots of “pokeys” as her son called them, or Disneyland to enjoy the final days of his life. Does she hope for a cure, or for the fullest remaining days of her child’s life?
Caregivers: acknowledge that your loved one’s hopes may be different than your own. The mother of the 6-year-old made the medical choices for her son, but what if the person with leukemia is your father, who is competent to make his own medical choices?
Maybe you cannot bear the thought of losing him and you hope that a new treatment will cure him. Maybe your father shares that perspective. But what if he considers experimental treatment to have certain discomfort and an uncertain benefit—and he decides that he would rather live out his days enjoying his grandchildren?
As his caregiver and his child, you may find it difficult to support his choice. You do not want to burden him with your disappointment that his choices are different than yours would be if you were in his shoes. That’s when you turn to a trusted friend and say, “I wish Dad would make a different choice. I want him to fight. I’m sad and angry that he’s chosen death.”
Honor your loved one’s hopes. As a caregiver, it’s important to remember that your loved one is the patient. It’s his or her body and life. And as much as you think you know what the best choice is, your job is to help your loved ones realize their hopes, not yours.
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Please call (888) 285-0093. Thanks for joining us in today’s Tuesday Tips for Caregivers. See you next week!