The Care giver and the Vol un teer
We are capable of caring for one another in countless ways. However, our society tends to deny thought and repress feelings associated with death and caring for someone who is dying. Despite the availability of lifesaving equipment and medical expertise, a typical hospital or nursing home is not the best place to die. Many doctors lack medical education in the areas of dying and death. They view death as evidence of failure and are found to have an extremely high fear of death. One alternative to dying in a hospital involves home care, which is essentially a full-time endeavor. Its main focus is the presence of a willing and able family member or friend to attend to the various tasks that constitute proper care for the terminally ill and dying. Taking care of a loved one at home is often a difficult and demanding task. The vulnerable and more fearful side to our nature surfaces. Whether connected to a dying loved one by bonds of affection and time or as a medical professional, we are likely to encounter the dying with a mixture of compassion, anxiety, and fear. Some of these fears include fears of our own death, the fear of hurting someone, the fear of being hurt, and the fear of being overwhelmed. These fears often lead to additional stress in the caregivers’ lives that may manifest in numerous ways, such as blaming ourselves and feeling immersed in helplessness and hopelessness; avoiding emotionally charged topics of conversations with patients or loved ones;
becoming emotionally wrought for no apparent reason; becoming careless in our communication; or not paying attention to the impact we are having on others. The sensitive caregiver must be empathic-risk perceiving the experience of dying from the dying person’s perspective-or function mechanically. The demands of our personal life seem to have a purpose of keeping us off balance and uncertain. Stress is our enemy. We spend much of our time dealing with pain and anxiety. Caregivers, are people-not robots. We need to take care of both our physical and emotional needs. We are notorious for taking care of others and neglecting to care for ourselves. Many of us tend to treat ourselves much worse than we would allow our family to treat themselves. How often do we say, “When there is time and I’m not so busy, I’ll take care of myself?” The following are ways we can nurture ourselves so we can fully care for our patients.