spider_on_a_web_orangeWe all have fears—of heights or spiders or public speaking.

The fears in caregiving, though, make those seem like child’s play.

The caregiving fears you face can overtake you, disabling your rational thoughts and common sense. These fears– about loss, failure and the future—seem too big until we break them down to break through them.

You fear what you’ll lose because of caregiving; specifically, your caree. A disease process or simply old age slowly and insidiously tears away at your caree. He or she seems to disappear before you. You can see what’s happening so you can feel the fear of what’s to come: Death. Who will you be if you’re not a daughter or son, spouse or partner? How can you continue if your caree doesn’t? How will you manage the pain of the loss?

The fear of failure seems to grip you around your throat. You face decisions—about who to hire, which treatment to pursue, which facility to choose. And, with each decision, you feel your caree’s life depending on your next step. It seems that if you’re wrong, then calamity will come.

And, then visions of the future appear, a future past caregiving. What will you do then? If you put your career on hold for caregiving, where will you work? If your life revolved around caregiving, how will you fill the void it leaves when it ends? The future, which once held promise, now simply holds an awful uncertainty.

Your fears makes sense—it’s awful to lose a caree. The pressure to make a decision that feels like life and death can paralyze. And, when we don’t know what’s to come, it’s understandable we fear it.

You can move past these fears. Here’s how:

  1. When you face fears about your losses, look to your spiritual and religious beliefs. Keep a connection to your beliefs because they provide comfort and answers when you face the mystery of life.
  2. We mistakenly assume that a decision is the end. Meaning, we think our decisions are made in concrete. Instead, imagine your decisions as being formed in a clay that can be molded and modified. Once you make a decision, then manage the decision. Revisit it. Tweak it. Revise it. Or, when a decision works, leave it be. The decision is part of a process meant to be re-examined as you gather more information, realize different options and create alternative solutions.
  3. Anxiety about your future after caregiving is understandable. This fear is truly one to take action about. Hire a career coach, pursue volunteer opportunities, re-establish relationships that had to come second to caregiving. You will have a future after caregiving. And, more important, you can plan and prepare for it today.

I often say that parenting teaches you how to love and caregiving teaches you how to live. Caregiving does that because it stirs up our greatest fears. As we face them, we understand how to truly live.

What fears do you face in your caregiving role? How do you manage them? Please share in our comments section, below.

Resources

  • Caregiving at Life’s End: Facing the Challenges

About Denise

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched Caregiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

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