Sunday, 26 July 2009

Coping as a Caregiver


I have been the primary caregiver for two intensely suffering patients in my life. Caregiving became a continuous job for me for around 4 to 5 years. At a relatively early age, at that. When I was all of 29 years, I had to nurse my ma-in-law who had come to stay with us and a couple of months later, she had been diagnosed with a terminal stage of liver cirhossis. I started with being the primary caregiver....had hired a day nurse, worked the whole day at office...I was a journalist with a frontline business daily, came back home and resumed my duties as a night nurse, stayed up nights, tended to bed sores and other accompanying chores. I used to wash her hair, bathe her, feed her food and medicines when the day nurse would play truant and generally be responsible for monitoring the daily ups and downs. During this period, I realised what a challenging job this is. It scoops out whatever perseverence and determination you have to do the job. It was an emotional and physical rollercoaster and you do end up feeling your efforts are not taken cognisance of. You feel frustrated and unappreciated. Natural...but you need to realise what goes on through the mind of the terminally ill patient. The cocktail of medicines plays havoc with their system and physiologically induces depression, irritability and has more to do with their bodies than their heart and mind. The caregiver as a result, goes through the same mental stress the patient undergoes, but in a milder way.

My second role was even more challenging.. Around the time my ma-in-law passed away, my other half had been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, an extreme condition of facial pain...and for three years I ran from pillar to post trying to find the correct diagnosis for his condition, till I took him to the US and he underwent a complicated brain surgery and came out of it completely (Touch wood). Ditto for my role as caregiver.

Such issues now arise with my sister. I am the only one in the family who has seen all this from close quarters. My role is now to counsel the caregivers...be patient. The patient is not really angry with you but at his/her own helplessness. And this is compounded by extreme suffering and despair and so takes it out on the closest target..the caregiver. One needs to be patient, to persevere, to look after one's own emotional health in order to cope. A tall order, but not insurmountable, nevertheless. After all, you are doing it for yourself. And its really between you and God anyway. In the end, love conquers all.

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