Saturday, June 15, 2013

Caregiver Emotion #4 – Worry

Jim used to say I was a worrywart, and I can’t deny that it was (and still is) true. At one time I remember telling him, “I have to worry, because you don’t.”

When we were first married, I worried about money because we never seemed to have too much of it. Paying bills on time and not racking up debt was important to me. I also felt a need for the safety net of putting a little aside for unexpected expenses. Although I was always conscious of our financial situation, one time I made an error in my checkbook. The bank didn’t return the check, but notified me that I needed more money in my account. We had money in another account, but I was worried because I received the notice on a weekend and the bank was closed.

It so happened that Jim was in the hospital in the stress unit and his mom and dad didn’t want me to tell him about the problem with the bank. The minute Jim saw my face, he demanded to know what was wrong. When I told him, he said, “Honey, when a problem can be solved by throwing a little money at it, it just isn’t worth worrying about.” Those were wise words, indeed.

Unfortunately, many of the worries you have as a caregiver cannot be solved with money. Being a caregiver to a person who has dementia is demanding and requires a lot of patience. You might worry that you don’t have the qualities you need to take care of your loved one. Sometimes a bigger worry is that if your loved one is being cared for by someone else, substitute caregivers may not meet all of his needs. You worry that your loved one feels abandoned or is lonely and afraid.

You can even worry about worrying! It can become an endless cycle of worry that can put gray hair on your head, or worse, bring on other health problems.

What can you do to break the cycle? I’ve found a few good diversions that help me keep worry under control. First, stay active and busy. This will give you something else to think about other than the problem that is worrying you.

Second, look for solutions. Instead of just worrying for the sake of worrying, calm down and think about ways to lessen your anxiety. I worried about Jim falling when he was in the nursing home. He was trying to get up in the mornings before the aides came to help him out of bed, and they were finding him on the floor. Jim had always been an early riser, so I suggested they wake him up about five in the morning and help him out of bed. Problem solved.

Third, share your worries with friends, family members, a support group, or a therapist. When you share your worries it accomplishes a couple of things. Talking about it can result in thinking out loud and you might be able to find a solution or at least come to grips with your emotional dilemma. Other people may suggest ideas that you never considered.

Many of the big problems in life that fill our days and nights with worry cannot be resolved, and with those problems, you will need to find methods that help you manage your worry. It may be as complex as regular visits to a therapist, or as simple as reading a good book at bedtime to take your mind off your worries so you can go to sleep. The important thing is to find what works for you.

Copyright (c) June 2013 by L. S. Fisher

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