One of the hardest aspects of being ill is relying on others to take care of you. No one experiences illness in exactly the same way, but illness almost always translates to a loss of independence for the patient. This can leave you feeling frustrated, helpless, angry and pathetic.
In my case, this loss of control was the difference between a 70-hour-a-week job at a law firm and lying flat on a hospital bed being spoon-fed Gerber apricot puree by my boyfriend. I felt humiliated and angry, and although I knew it wasn’t right, I blamed the hand holding the spoon.
Even though caretakers, whether nurses or loved ones, are intent upon nursing you back to health and easing your discomfort, they are often the recipients of feelings of resentment. I’ve learned that when I feel angry or annoyed toward a caregiver for, say, reminding me to take it easy or to take my medication, I’m usually angry at my disease. Not them.
Forming a strong and positive relationship with your caregiver can make a world of difference for your well-being, whether at the hospital or at home. As part of my new year’s resolutions for 2012, join me (sick or not) in honoring those that care for us.
Secrets of Cancerhood #2: Keep cordial, respectful, appreciative relationships with your caregivers.
Caring for a loved one is hard work. At home, where you may feel more comfortable and uninhibited, maintaining positive, respectful relationships with your caregivers is doubly important. Your friends and family differ from medical professionals as caregivers in that they are personally invested in your recovery. This has the advantage of providing you with more personalized care, but it also makes them more susceptible to overexertion and sensitive to changes in your health and behavior.
Remember that your family members and friends share in the emotional distress of your illness. Just because your caregiver loves you unconditionally, doesn’t mean that you can take them for granted. When tired or in pain, it is easier for us to take out our pain on our loved ones than we would on a nurse at the hospital. We can make the mistake of assuming that our appreciation and gratitude don’t need to be spelled out. In reality, the opposite is true. Your loved ones are especially vulnerable during these difficult times. They have the double-duty of being both a caretaker and companion. Always try to show them the same respect and gratitude (if not more) that you would to others.
If you’re being cared for in the hospital, nurses and staff can become your most valuable allies. They are the frontline of your support system, your family away from home. Gratitude has a boomerang effect. If you treat your medical team with respect and gratitude, they will more often than not respond in kind, providing you with better care and more personalized support. Learn their first names and tell them how much you appreciate their help and dedication. Nurses in particular, can serve as medical translators between you and your doctor, explaining complex or confusing medical information. Some of my best nurses are not only caretakers, but have become dear friends and advocates on my behalf.