Resetting Our Brains after a Caregiving Crisis

Responding to Caregiving CrisisWhen you are caring for someone who is aged or chronically ill, it isn’t unusual to find yourself coping with one caregiving crisis after another.

Regardless of how capable and positive you are by nature, when you are being bombarded with a steady stream of problems, it doesn’t take long before you start waking up every morning with a sense of anxiety and impeding doom.

My friend Ginny started down the “trauma trail” of caregiving lat summer when her 86 year-old widowed father suffered a series of TIA’s, which made it impossible for him to continue to drive. Between Halloween and Christmas he developed a serious problem with his heart that required surgery and three different hospital stays.

Ginny had to sell his home and move him into an apartment close to her where he could live on his limited assets. She coordinated the move and disposed of all of the furniture and household items that wouldn’t fit into his new, small space. She dealt with every detail of the move while also managing one healthcare crisis after another. Did I mention she also has teenaged children and a full-time job?

When I asked her recently how things were going, she said, “It’s kind of crazy. Everything is better. Dad’s health has improved. He seems to be settled into his new place. We got the house deal completed and everything worked out, so it’s all good. The only problem is, I wake up every morning anticipating a crisis. Every time I see his number on my caller ID, my stomach tightens up. I’m living in a perpetual state of anxiety, and I feel like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

The actual caregiving crisis is over, but Ginny’s brain is still in panic mode. She needs a mental and emotional reset. (Too bad resetting our brain isn’t as easy as rebooting our computer.)

I suggested she try doing some deep, slow breathing while repeating positive statements such as:

  • It was a difficult time, but we got through it.
  • The crisis is over.
  • Dad’s okay. I’m okay. I can relax now.
  • I gratefully realease all feelings of anxiety from my body and brain.
  • I am thankful for this calm and happy day.

We can’t control what happens to our loved ones’ bodies as they aged or suffer various illnesses. We have to understand and accept that there will be times when we will be responding to one caregiving crisis after another.  As you go through them, it can be hard to imagine that the intense pressures and difficulties will ever end. Take heart. You WILL get through it; and when it’s over, if you will take some time to rest, relax and release the tension, you will eventually start recognizing and enjoying all of the small pleasures that make life worth living. You may even stop flinching every time the phone rings.