As a caregiver, it can be difficult to let go of some of those caregiving roles. After being so consumed by a loved one’s illness for a long time, some caregivers may feel a little lost or like they don’t know what to do with themselves now that their day isn’t filled with doctors appointments and visits from therapists and home care nurses. Some caregivers may feel disappointment that although the illness has passed, things may never really be the same again. For some couples, it can be difficult to shift back to the roles of romantic partners when they have been fulfilling the roles of nurse and patient for a long time.
Caregivers are survivors, too. Some, especially parents of children with cancer, may experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including intense anxiety, nightmares, feelings of hopelessness and anger, fearfulness, and difficulty coping or adjusting. This is a treatable medical condition, and caregivers should seek help from their doctor or mental health professional if they are experiencing it.
When your loved one’s path to recovery is finally moving in the right direction, be sure to take a minute for yourself to evaluate how you are feeling about it. You may have positive feelings of relief and excitement for the future. You may be a little worried about your place in the world or that your loved one won’t need you anymore. Be sure to discuss these feelings with your loved one or another person close to you. You may be surprised to find out that they are having similar feelings about themselves as well.
One thing is certain, as a caregiver, you should take pride in your accomplishments and for giving love and support to someone who has faced the biggest challenge in his or her life. Celebrate what it means to be a survivor and a family caregiver.
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Laura J. Pinchot, BA, is a copy editor and writer who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her first book, Help Wanted: Caregiver was published in October 2010 by Hygeia Media, an imprint of the Oncology Nursing Society. Laura is the mother of two children, one of whom was recently diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified (which is in the family of autism spectrum disorders), so she is learning how to navigate the education and social services systems through the new perspective of a mother of a special needs child. Read more articles by Laura Pinchot.