There is an art to maintaining a balance between fulfilling your obligations to others while being true to yourself.
Taking care of yourself
Each person needs different things in order to feel taken care of. Some may need weekly massages, some may need a round of golf, some may need a shoulder to cry on, and some may want to go shopping. Whatever brings you the greatest sense of comfort (as long as it is not destructive), should be done on a regular basis. Turn off the ringer on your phone and have someone else (the family spokesperson) update family members on the patient’s condition. Assign different family members to different tasks and hospital shifts.
Strategies such as deep breathing, leaving the room, going for a walk, and squeezing a “stress” ball can help you deal with your emotions at that moment. Helping others should make you feel energized. If not, you need to take more breaks and do more for yourself.
It is often very helpful for family members to share their feelings with each other, with friends, other family members, or professionals. The important thing is to get them out! Speak with others who have gone through something similar. Join support groups. Encourage others to ask questions and to express their feelings as well. At minimum, keep a journal (written or on tape) to express everything you are feeling.
Your local hospitals and community centers can provide you with information on caregiving, and the Internet has several sites for caregiver support. We strongly suggest you contact these or other agencies and get involved in a support group.
The suggestions in this section can apply for both the caregiver and the patient. During stressful times such as this, many people feel a loss of control. Although it is not possible to control the person’s brain injury, recovery, treatment, behavior, emotions, etc., it is possible to regain a sense of control simply by taking initiative for the things that are in your control. This may include doing things to improve your health and well-being, helping others, and making life simpler for yourself.