Writing about caregivers does not usually get rave reviews because most Chaplains are concerned for patient care. However, with most every patient comes at least one caregiver. Caring for the caregiver is just as important as providing care for the patient.
Let the words of Dr. Nancy Snyderman echo in your mind: “When my father fell sick, suddenly becoming the primary caregiver, I learned firsthand that caregiver burnout is real and that the stress of caregiving comes on like a full-frontal assault." This is not just Dr. Snyderman’s story; this is the story of the caregivers we meet in hospice. Some are absolutely exhausted. I think of the spouse of a dementia patient. The patient is an escape artist. He was able to unlock 7 locks firmly bolted to the front door. It looked like he couldn’t possibly unlock them as several were at the top of the door. But, he somehow did unlock them all and wandered down the street. This set his spouse into turmoil as to his whereabouts. As she told me about this episode I realized she had as much need for me as her spouse/patient. I think of another caregiver who was not certain what do with at Christmastime with the tree and the lights…so, she put them all up as holiday decorations. When her dementia diagnosed mother lost it when she experienced the lights and noise of a scratchy sounding Christmas recording, this caregiver broke down in tears believing she irreparably harmed her mother. I think of another caregiver…and another caregiver…and another caregiver. The list goes on thousands of times. Each caregiver carries a heavy burden. Our role as Chaplains is to support them. I want to suggest to you what I call 7 deadly emotions of caregivers (and, I am interested to read your response to this list. Perhaps there are other emotions you have identified in your chaplaincy practice…): Caregiver Guilt, Resentment, Anger, Worry, Loneliness, Grief, and Defensiveness. What have you observed? Feel free to share.