As family caregivers, receiving news about a diagnosis, especially related to the health of a family member or friend, is always difficult. Sometimes, even if you suspect something may be wrong, the confirmation of a new diagnosis can still come as a shock.
Looking for your own caregiver support system during difficult times can make the difference between burning out as a caregiver or being able to continue caring.
For some family caregivers, dealing with a bad diagnosis and coming to terms with it can be a struggle and lead to caregiver role strain.
There’s a lot to think about. Everything from understanding and getting over the shock of the diagnosis, to dealing with the emotions, and figuring out every day practicalities and logistics; it will all weigh heavy on your mind.
Here are some practical tips for family caregivers to help you to understand and, hopefully, ease the stress of dealing with a new diagnosis.
Gather information and educate yourself
There is so much information available for caregivers these days. Going online can be a great resource, but remember to look for information from reputable sites (such as those on the Elizz approved resources page).
Since there is so much information available online, it’s also important to speak directly with your health care team to understand what information applies to your caregiving situation. Not everything you read online will be applicable to the new diagnosis of the person in your care.
Take time to reflect and plan
After learning about a new diagnosis, take some time to reflect on what this means for you and for the person in your care. Think about what types of lifestyle changes will need to be made, if any, and how you will make these accommodations in your life.
For example, will you be the primary caregiver? If so, are there other people who can help you? What’s manageable for you? Will you be able to continue working?
These are just a few examples of questions you’ll want to ask yourself.
Gently provide encouragement
Dealing with the emotions of receiving a new diagnosis is hard. Acknowledging the concerns of the person in your care, as well as your own concerns, is the first step to overcoming these fears. A period of depression may follow a new diagnosis; if this is the case, try to remain encouraging and seek professional help when needed.
We’re in this together
Having someone to lean on can be incredibly comforting. It’s someone to tell you everything will be okay, even when the future is unknown. Being a support system for the person in your care can leave you feeling depleted. Looking for your own caregiver support system during difficult times can make the difference between burning out as a caregiver or being able to continue caring.
Caregiver support can come in many different forms. The type of support you need the most may change from day to day. Often your friends, family, and neighbours would be more than willing to help you out. All you need to do is ask. Think about some tasks that someone else could easily take on, or if there’s someone who could provide backup care if needed. See also, our article on Caregiver Isolation.
There may also be local or online support networks for caregivers in a similar situation. These can be an invaluable resource for caregiver support since you’ll be connecting with others going through similar challenges. Contact the Elizz Caregiver Coach for help.
Get to know your care team
These are the health care professionals you will get to know over the course of the many appointments you’ll attend with the person in your care. Building a caregiving team of health care professionals will provide an invaluable source of information. To make the most of your appointment, prepare questions ahead of time.
As the caregiver, your role at these appointments is to advocate on behalf of the person in your care. This could include ensuring that all of their questions are asked, answered, and understood, as well as taking notes and providing emotional support.
Communicate with your social network, family, and friends
The next step after receiving a new diagnosis is informing those around you. It’s important to speak to the person in your care about when and how they would like to tell their extended family and friends. Some people may be sensitive about having everyone know something they consider personal. The benefit of reaching out to friends and family is that it can help ease some of the caregiving burden. They may be able to provide emotional support, advice, or even respite care.
Dealing with a new diagnosis is never easy, but with the proper support, the person in your care can feel more at ease and you’ll both be able to tackle this new challenge together.
Please call Elizz at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549) if you are unsure of how to deal with a new diagnosis or if you are experiencing caregiver role strain and need help.
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.
You might also like our Elizz article entitled Self Care Assessment for Caregivers.