Safe in the Storm by Jane Meier Hamilton

 

Safe in the Storm

by JANE MEIER HAMILTON on FEBRUARY 19, 2014

winter scene

The storm blew in while we were sleeping. Ice-coated tree branches fell on power lines and blocked the roads. In the morning I was shocked by what had been quickly and unexpectedly taken from me: a warm house and hot cup of coffee, access to the Internet and the road to work, my creature comforts and regular routine.

Life was turned upside down and I was powerless to change the situation. Along with 715,000 other households, I’d lost power, light, and heat. What I had was an abundance of uncertainty, a small measure of discomfort, and no idea when power crews would fix the lines. Fortunately, I was spared physical harm and property damage. The storm was disruptive and draining, but at least I was safe.

Not so for Gail’s 85-year-old parents, whose home is 10 miles from hers. Gail’s dad is recovering from recent surgery; her mom is feeble and depends on a walker. Both have mild dementia and are fiercely independent. Also without power, they were trying to heat their home with candles! Gail was wild with anxiety, worrying they’d start a house fire, or one of them would fall and be unable to get help.

Caregiving Crises

The ice storm and talking with Gail got me thinking about crises in caregiving, brought on by things like:

  • Conditions: Broken hip, blindness, stroke, cancer, a rare disease, or chronic illness
  • Decisions: Take away car keys, move to assisted living, begin hospice, or remove a breathing tube
  • Conflicts: Doing enough, doing the right thing, or balancing work and caregiving responsibilities

Caregiving crises develop when health conditions change, difficult decisions must be made, or conflicts arise. Overwhelming as a major storm, they disrupt daily routines, demand a response, and can drastically change lives.

As with storms, you must find ways to live through caregiving crises. It’s impossible to predict exactly how or when they’ll end. But you can count on anxious moments and debates about what to do. Post-crisis, life is different. Sometimes the changes are minor, sometimes significant. Whatever the outcome, there is always relief when the storm has passed.

To stay safe in the storm, practice self-care:

  • Stay calm. Anxiety, fear, and panic block logical decision making. These emotions are contagious and can raise fears in those around you. Calm yourself by breathing slowly and deeply. Affirm your strength and capacity to handle adversity. Envision positive resolutions. Distract your mind from worry by focusing on topics or activities that aren’t related to the crisis. Do what works best to help you relax.
  • Create a plan. Don’t waste time and energy focusing on things you don’t control. Identify ways to improve your situation: what you can influence, improve, decrease, or eliminate. When making plans, be specific by defining who will do what. Set a time for each action. Make sure actions are achievable, and assignments are reasonable and within people’s abilities. Get agreement with others on the plan. Then take action and follow up to check progress.

 

  • Connect with others. It’s awful to feel alone in a storm or crisis; it’s always easier to bear with the support of others. Discuss the situation and how you feel about it. Ask for, and offer, a helping hand or words of encouragement. Seek advice from experts or from others who have had similar experiences. Even if you are totally cut off from other people, you can always turn to God.

winter branches

 

  • Look for the light. On the second day of no lights at my house, I took this picture of brilliant sun shining through ice-covered trees. It reminded me that in the darkest of times there are moments of light and love. In the midst of difficulties lie small islands of peace. Clarity eventually comes when struggling with uncertainty. Hold onto hope; it will help you through the storm.

Try these self-care strategies during caregiving crises. As you do so much for others, remember to take good care of yourself, too….Jane

About the Author

Jane Meier Hamilton MSN, RN, is CEO and founder of Partners on the Path LLC, a leader in providing corporate-sponsored caregiver support programs to businesses that employ, and nonprofits that support, caregivers. She has been a nurse for 40 years and family caregiver for 20. Learn about Jane’s research-based, resilience-building resources atwww.PartnersonthePath.com. Find her book, The Caregiver’s Guide to Self-Care (Infinity 2011) in print, one-hour audio, and e-book formats at your favorite online provider.

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