No matter how the patient acts and reacts, he will need to know that family and friends are available for support. This includes encouraging him when appropriate, leaving him alone when asked, and making a joke or two to cheer him up. If a patient does take some anger out on family or friends, it is important that everyone not take it personally.
Most family members and caregivers will expect themselves to be superheroes. You may expect yourself to be available at the drop of a hat, to be encouraging, understanding, patient, supportive, and all of the other qualities the patient needs. And you will have to accomplish all of this while maintaining a life of your own.
While these qualities would be ideal, it is not realistic for caregivers to expect themselves to be all of these things all of the time. Caregivers can expect to experience the joys of seeing someone accomplish something they never thought they would accomplish. However, caregivers can also expect to lose their cool, to get impatient, to want to give up, to leave, and to break down. We are human—these things are going to happen. That is why it is so important for caregivers and those closely involved in the recovery process to take regular breaks.
Learning to Strike a Balance
“I was by his side 24 hours a day for two months. I got little sleep, ate poorly, and practically cut myself off from the rest of the world…It finally hit me when I suddenly panicked and had to get out of the hospital, right away. I drove for two hours, collected my thoughts, and found that for the past two months I had lost my identity, just as he had…I had become just one of the pieces of equipment in the hospital. During that drive I made the difficult decision that I had to limit my visits and make time for myself.”