When my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, as her caregiver I wanted to do everything I could to make her journey as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Everything.
In our situation that translated to, among other things, handling all of the details concerning her appointments schedule and doing all of the driving to and from various medical activities. I am not a control freak; I honestly wanted to help as much as possible and she and I agreed doing these things would be a great help and comfort to her.
As it turned out, the driving was no minor chore as we chose to have the majority of her treatment over 100 miles from home. By going with her to all of her appointments and doing all of the driving, she was able to sleep in the car during the 2-hours-plus journey (in each direction), sleep that she definitely needed. It worked well for me too, in that the driving gave me a much needed break in the tremendous stress I was under; I didn’t listen to the news or music, I just drove along in peaceful solitude.
One day we were getting ready to leave and Chris said, “You know, it’s really bugging me that you’re doing all of the driving.”
WHAT? I thought I was being helpful! “Why??” I asked incredulously.
“Because I don’t feel like I have any control over anything in my life right now.”
The lesson here: it is possible to do TOO MUCH as caregiver. We all want to do whatever we can to help our patients, but there is a fine line between what is just enough and what is too much. If you cross that line you run the risk of raising stress levels rather than reducing them.
The solution to this potential problem is to have an open line of communication with your patient. They have to feel comfortable telling you such things and it is up to you to make sure they feel that way.
In our situation, we decided she would drive the fist 20 miles or so, and then I would take over. It solved the problem.
This article is one in a series on coping strategies for patients and caregivers alike. For more thoughts on caregiving, coping strategies, reducing stress, and just plain fun subscribe to my free monthly newsletter at www.CaringAndCoping.com