While there is a wide range of caregiving, this post is geared to those who care for the elderly and terminally ill patients. This is often an elephant in the caregiving room because so many people are afraid to talk about death. However, when it comes to caring for someone is walking the road to the end of their days, and you are walking gently beside them, you are surrounded by the presence of death. Some caregivers can accept this, knowing it will be the end result, and they will do what they can to make their patient as comfortable as possible. Yet, there are caregivers who struggle and try to pretend it is not there. They do not want to see it, they try not to believe it, and they cling to a hope that they can keep it away. Even then, there are those who suffer shock when the patient dies and they are left with a gaping void in their lives.
Caregiving is never an easy job, but when the caregiver must deal with impending death, they not only have their own internal struggles, they must be able to help the person who is dying. Sometimes, they must push their feelings aside to be there as a support for their loved one. This can make the inevitable death more difficult, and lead to problems with acceptance later on.
The important thing for caregivers to realize is that there is no way to avoid it, and even if they must shut their emotions off around their loved one, there are ways to handle death before it happens. My first recommendation for those who are really having a hard time is to seek therapy, but there are also things caregivers can do to help them cope with the stress.
- The first is a journal. Anything can and should be written in here to help release the pent up emotions that can’t be spoken. It is a sacred space to record their caregiving story.
- Next is a plan. Caregivers need to have a plan to help them when a death occurs and after. This should help keep the caregiver organized as there will be much to do. They also need to consider what to do with themselves afterwards. Caregiving has become a job, and when it is gone, there will be an emptiness that needs to be replaced. This plan should have specific goals to provide healing activity and to keep them social.
- Finally, the caregiver should build a support system. Loss is never easy, but this type of loss can produce so many mixed emotions and have an aftermath that is unexpected. Caregivers need to have people who can be there to surround them with love, support, meals, generosity, and friendship.
There are many other steps that can be taken, but the most important thing is for the caregiver to feel prepared. In a caregiving situation where the end is going to be death, the reactions are unpredictable, and the emotions can be overwhelming. Do not block it out because leaving something this important to be discussed at a later date could lead to an unprepared caregiver. Address concerns right away, build support, get information, and make a plan. This will help when the time comes and the loss weighs down the logical thinking. For those around a caregiver like this, be prepared to help them face death when it arrives. Most importantly, if you or someone you know is having a difficult time, please seek an expert to help you or them. Everyone is different, and for many, a journal is not going to be enough. Do not think you have to be tough and handle it alone because there are people who can help.