Handling Emotional Distress
It is not unusual for a family member to experience emotional distress at any phase of the rehabilitation process. Often, the family member is unaware of the distress because the primary focus is always on the survivor’s needs. You, the caregiver, are also in need of professional help during this family crisis.
During and immediately after the aneurysm, the family member of the survivor experiences a broad range of intense emotions, such as shock, fear, worry, anger, frustration, and hopelessness.
As the rehabilitation process unfolds, these emotions may continue to prey on you and further add to your suffering. Depression, worry, anger, and grief may pile on top of your own fragile emotions. You might feel guilty and brush this feeling aside because you are so anxious to take proper care of your loved one. You may find it difficult to fully express and explore your feelings if the survivor is present.
Others in your situation probably undergo the same feelings, and you are not alone. The emotional distress that you may experience is a natural part of the rehabilitation process and you must realize that self-care is just as important as survivor care. Your emotional wellbeing is necessary for a positive outcome for both you and the brain aneurysm survivor.
There are many forms of emotional distress. You, the caregiver, should not view these depressed, anxious, or hopeless moods as a sign of weakness. When you realize the gamut of emotions that you have experienced from the beginning of the aneurysm episode until the present, you will begin to appreciate how stressful life has been for you as well as for your loved one. It is important to release your emotions and understand how common your feelings are.
It will be important for you to maintain a positive outlook throughout your care giving, which will help you develop patience with the survivor and the process. You will learn that personality and behavior changes after an aneurysm are generally not intentional, but reflect changes in brain function.
The way any family member interprets the survivor’s behavior and progress plays a major role in his/her emotional condition. Consider the family of a survivor whose aneurysm affected the function of her frontal lobes. The frontal lobe has a great deal to do with initiation and motivation, and survivors with damage to this area may not take obvious steps toward recovery, and seem “lazy” or uncaring. The family of a survivor with poor motivation may become upset if they believe that the survivor has lost interest and given up. If you, as the caregiver, think that the patient is deliberately avoiding recovery work, you may become quite frustrated or angry with the survivor.
If, on the other hand, you understand the neurological basis for the survivor’s poor motivation, you will deal much more effectively with the problem. You will have the patience to structure the survivor’s activities, and actively encourage him/her to work toward rehabilitation goals.
As the caregiver, you must remember that your emotional well-being is crucial to the progress of the survivor’s health. You must recognize and tend to your own emotional struggles in order to be successful.
If you are the primary caregiver, consider the benefits of an aneurysm support group, a caregiver support group, or private therapy. It will be a safe harbor to moor your emotions during this turbulent time.
10 Tips for Caregivers
1. Caregiving is a job and respite is your earned right. Reward yourself with respite breaks often.
2. Watch out for signs of depression, and don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it.
3. When people offer to help, accept the offer and suggest specific things that they can do.
4. Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition and how to communicate effectively with doctors.
5. There’s a difference between caring and doing. Be open to technologies and ideas that promote your loved one’s independence.
6. Trust your instincts. Most of the time, they’ll lead you in the right direction.
7. Caregivers often do the lifting, pushing, and pulling. Be good to your back.
8. Grieve for your losses and then allow yourself to dream new dreams.
9. Seek support from other caregivers. There is great strength in knowing you are not alone.
10. Stand up for your rights as a caregiver and a citizen.