As featured in North Hawaii News May 10, 2016
This month I would like to help ease the tension that inevitably occurs when family members become involved in the well-being of a loved one. A large variety of people, at some time in their life, will need their family’s help, in some way or another. When entering this role, mental preparation is imperative before stepping in and demanding changes in someone’s life.
One of the first things that I see family members do is decide what the individual needs, without truly understanding the whole picture. It usually comes from a place of love and concern, yet can quickly turn into a battle of wills. This is understandable because it can feel unnatural to have your children or spouse advising you when that has not been your normal relationship with them.
One way to maintain your relationship, while providing support, is to seek the advice of professionals in your area. Educating yourself and receiving guidance from those who have a big picture perspective will help you navigate your role when assisting a family member with their care. Every situation is unique, and professionals will help you see that what may have worked for your neighbor or best friend may not be what works for you and your loved one.
My next piece of advice is to release the belief that your way is the best way. Ease into solutions that feel comfortable for everyone involved, to the degree that it’s safe and reasonable, and progress on that path.
I also recommend finding a central thought, or mantra, which will assist you when you get into the battle of wills. Why are you helping them? Visit this question throughout the caregiving experience and make decisions from that ultimate goal, which likely involves their health and safety.
I recently spoke with a woman whose husband is a professional man with some health challenges. He expressed his discomfort with her referring to herself as his caregiver, which had seemed so straightforward and true to her. She sought advice from Chris Ridley, an Alzheimer’s expert in Hilo, who recommended the term “care partner” rather than “caregiver.” That simple shift has made a world of difference in their marriage.
Considering the language involved in conversations with and about a loved one will help everyone feel more at ease with the evolving situation. Regardless of your mindset coming in to a care dynamic and the mistakes you may make along the path, genuinely honor the person you are assisting and everything else will come together as it’s meant to be.
These tips will hopefully help you to approach your care partnering role in a positive light so you can enjoy the precious experience of honoring your loved one through quality care for years to come.