FAMILY CARE-GIVING - PROACTIVE VS. REACTIVE
The life of the Family Caregiver is one of unpredictability. If there is one thing we can predict is that at some point during our day we will experience and overwhelming sense of urgency to run for the hills. In the early stages of family caregiving we can find ourselves dreading the rising of the sun as we are greeted with the unknown in terms of our loved ones illness.
Mental illness is on its own a living breathing being I like to refer to it as the "unruly house guest" as I once read that somewhere. Symptoms have the tendency to show up just as you are preparing to accompany your loved one to a doctors or psych appointment or just as you were thinking you were going to have a day out alone your loved ones anxiety peaked and you were once again placed in the position to cancel or go in spite of the unannounced arrival of the "unruly house guest". Something many caregivers choose not to talk openly about is the inability to tell whether their loved one is having a difficult time or if it's being orchestrated to get their way or discourage the caregiver from leaving them alone or in the care of someone they may not enjoy the company of.
Family caregivers around the world are fully familiar with the feelings of being out of control of a situation when a loved one is in full blown symptoms and nothing they are doing is helping to alleviate the suffering. The fear of what's coming next can paralyze the caregiver and you wind up with a caregiver who is simply co-existing in the home with a loved one who is out of control and non-compliant.
It is not the intention of the caregiver it's just the caregiver has given up out of frustration. This is dangerous for both the caregiver and the loved one, as the caregiver could wind up in the hospital from being overly stressed or the loved one can wind up in crisis. How can a Caregiver avoid getting to that point? Being proactive instead of reactive we empower ourselves. Webster’s dictionary defines Proactive as: "creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened." Webster’s dictionary defines Reactive as: "acting in response to a situation rather than creating or controlling it."
When a caregiver does the research, asks the questions, keeps documentation, and practices what is learned over and over again until it is mastered they become empowered. There is no longer a feeling of dread when a circumstance pops up for them. A caregiver who has taken the steps to keep a notebook of their loved ones symptoms and other characteristics of the illness there is something to refer to when the need arises.
Below are some examples of being Proactive Vs. Reactive:
Proactive - A loved one has a manic episode and you record the time of the event and walk backwards through the day to determine what could have been the trigger. You walk with them and that doesn't work. You sit with them and that isn't working. You suggest going for a run that doesn't move them, then you turn on music and began dancing and they join in with you. Before long you notice a marked change in their behavior they become more relaxed. You do a host of other methods you have recorded that has worked as a result of our online research and talking to the psychologist. Your loved ones symptoms are lighter and you are less stressed.
Reactive - A loved one is having a manic episode and you urge them to calm down it's not that serious and they should know how to handle this by now. You begin lecturing them on how to keep a level head and not say certain things and you recruit other family members to join in the conversation of how this should be second nature by now, and how the family expects this to be handled way differently than it is being handled. Your loved one becomes more stressed, more withdrawn, and more agitated, resulting in the symptoms worsening and prolonged. You are not going to sleep and neither will your loved one or any other family member in the house.
How you manage your caregiving journey determines the level of stress you and your loved one will encounter. You cannot control the negative parts of your journey but you can control how you will address them and how you process them. As a survivor of Depression and Anxiety I have learned the importance of staying in tune with our emotions and moods. If we are not taking inventory or keeping record of what we experience throughout the day it's easy to fall back into negative behaviors and negative thoughts.
Ask yourself what is it you can do to reduce the stress and make room for self-care as well as be more effective as a Family caregiver? Don't allow pity or resentment to cause you to feel useless. Stand up and do the research. Look for ways to increase your knowledge as a family caregiver where are you most productive and where are you least productive? Just like a fence that needs mending, get the supplies and make the repairs.
Homagi offers Caregiver training and we are at the beginning of a sub series in our annual series #PriorityBreakMe called #BreakingTheTimeBank we help you locate the lost time you have been looking for and create a more streamlined and functional day custom fit for your loved one, and your family.
You deserve to have a life outside of Caregiving and because we learned to create that balance we are passing on that knowledge to you. Stop by and #PriorityBreakMe on the menu and click on the #BreakingTheTimeBank link and join the 21 day challenge. We are starting with Module 1 (out of 4 monthly) out of the subseries of 12(for the whole year) and you can choose which you prefer to attend. You may already have the skills in some of the modules; it's all up to you and what you desire your caregiving journey to be.
Hope to see you in one of our trainings!