Being a caretaker comes with many challenges, especially when caring for a sick loved one. It is likely that you will experience a rollercoaster of emotions, go through various stages of the grieving process, and face having to accept death. At the same time, you will want to foster happiness and optimism both for yourself and your loved one. Doing these things is essential to make the most out of your days when caring for a family member or close friend with a terminal illness. Additionally, you may find that you need somewhere to turn to find emotional support.
These are all natural reactions to the process of caretaking and it is important to understand that no two people are the same. You may find that emotions affect you differently than they do another family member and this is entirely normal. When caring for a sick loved one, there are a few key things to know.
Handling Rapid Cycle Emotions
You will notice that you have good days and bad days, just like everyone else. However, when caring for a sick loved ones your emotions may have higher highs and lower lows, and they may come and go quickly. You may find yourself laughing one minute and crying the next.
Acknowledge these emotions as they come and do not tell yourself that you should feel one way or the other. Do not feel bad for your happiness or beat yourself up when you get down. It is all part of the process. Let yourself know that it is okay to feel what you are feeling.
Coping with Grief
Many people think that grief sets in only after a loved one passes, yet anticipatory grief can be just as challenging. Anticipatory grief comes when you know a loved one will soon pass and it has the same stages. You may find yourself in denial, angry, bargaining, and feeling depressed.
Do not put a timeline on your grief. It may take you longer than others to move through each stage and that’s okay. Sometimes, individuals experience what is known as absent grief. Absent grief does mean that you are not sad, just that you have not yet processed the situation. All of these situations and feelings are normal.
If your loved one has a terminal illness, both you and them will have to accept the idea of death. Doing this can be extremely challenging for both parties. During this time your loved one may wish to pre-plan arrangements for their end-of-life wishes. This is often difficult for caretakers to accept and participate in as it makes the fact of death real.
If your loved one wishes to pre-plan their arrangements, sit with them and let you know that you are there for support. Let them know that you will ensure their final wishes are met and help them through the process. During this time your loved one may begin to make sure their will is in place and take care of estate planning if they have not done so already. It is likely that you will continue to cycle through a range of emotions and the stages of grief as the time comes near.
Fostering Happiness and Optimism
An essential part of caring for a sick loved one is fostering a sense of happiness and optimism, not just for yourself, but for your friend or family member as well. Make the most of your days together. Find activities that you enjoy doing, whether it be going for a walk through the park or playing boardgames and watching your favorite movies. Look through old pictures together and talk about fond memories and jokes. It’s important to smile.
Maintaining a sense of optimism is also important. If your loved one has an illness that is not yet terminal, serve as a source of support and motivation. If your loved one does have a terminal illness, remind them that everything will be okay and they are deeply cared for.
Resources for Help and Support
Taking care of a sick loved one is a difficult time. In addition to the extra duties you may now be responsible for around the house or with the family, you are likely dealing with extreme emotions and thoughts. It is okay to recognize that you cannot do everything by yourself and that it is okay to ask for help when you need it.
Ask those you are close to for support and to help when they can. Additionally, many individuals find it helpful to speak with a grief counselor. There are also online forums and groups on social media where people just like you come together to support one another through trying times. Remember, you do not have to do this alone.