Caregiving Blog: The Two Things Caregivers Fear the Most Result

by | | Difficult Discussions

Fear of making caregiving mistakes paralyzes caregivers. The two things caregivers fear the most have the greatest potential to solve caregiving issues. When caregivers move past insecurity and denial to ask questions and ask for help, caregiving roles and responsibilities become easier.

Fear of Making Caregiving Mistakes Paralyzes Caregivers

Taking action to make caregiving decisions fails to happen when the fear of making a mistake is greater than the fear of success.  Fear is created in our brain and is supported by previous failures.

There are many reasons fear occurs in caregiving. There are also many side-effects of fear that include feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness that increase caregiver stress. Fear piled on top of negative feelings reduces motivation to act.

Caregiving burnout contributes to fear of making caregiving mistakes. At a high level of caregiver stress, the brain shuts down and closes the door to decision-making, which is viewed to have more risk than benefit. Opportunities to improve a situation or to receive help are also quickly dismissed by the burned-out caregiving brain. The result is paralysis to engage in any activity viewed as threatening that may have a positive result. 

Taking Action is Stalled by Caregiver Fears

The roles and responsibilities of caregiving require ongoing attention and action. Caregiver fears stall taking action. After the two things, caregivers fear the most—asking questions and asking for help—what are other fears that caregivers experience?

  • Loss of love
  • Embarrassment
  • Feeling stupid
  • Rejection
  • Criticism
  • Loss of respect
  • Loss of self-esteem

The Closed Caregiver Mind

When I work with caregivers in courses and support groups, some of the most common statements are:

  • I can’t
  • That won’t work
  • I don’t have time to do that
  • I’ve tried that
  • My aging parent or spouse will never do that
  • I can’t afford that

Caregivers who experience fear and denial are quick to eliminate options and close the mind to actions that have been proven to work.  Remaining stuck in negative patterns is easier than creating change through positivity. Caregiver fear and hesitation result in caregiving mistakes.

Fears and Negativity Harm The Care of Loved Ones

When caregivers exhibit negative attitudes, closed minds, and fear of making caregiving mistakes, the care of aging parents and spouses suffer. How can anything positive come from being exposed to inescapable negativity?

Negative attitudes and feeling hopeless or helpless sustains caregiver burnout. Abundant research exists about the effects of caregiver burnout on the mental and physical body of the caregivers. Many caregivers experience worse health than the person who receives care.

There is a tendency not to “see the forest for the trees.” This saying means that caregivers focus on small details and minor frustrations instead of looking at the bigger picture of caregiving issues. It is easy to become exhausted by caregiving responsibilities. 

Anger and Hurt Damage Caregiving Relationships

Feelings of anger and hurt damage caregiving relationships. How many times is a caregiver angry at another person who was not helpful and carries this memory for years. When family caregiving situations arise, brothers and sisters recall childhood events that involved unfair treatment. When the offending sibling has no recollection of the event, the family caregiver becomes even angrier.

Carrying around and dwelling on these emotional grudges is harmful to long term health. The person causing the injury or hurt often forgets the incident seconds after it occurred. The person harmed carries the anger of the situation inside for years.

Forgiveness Has Positive Effects on Health

Forgiving ourselves and forgiving others releases stress and anxiety that is associated with caregiver burnout. Forgiveness works in partnership with having better relationships with others.

When we hold back forgiveness, our mind may be clouded by feelings of anger and hurt. As a result, we think less clearly and have more difficulty making decisions to move caregiving issues forward. Feelings of anger and bitterness are exhausting. By carrying negative feelings, we create obstacles to be aware of new opportunities and positive relationships with others.

Caregiving situations are complicated. By realizing that we can only change ourselves and our thinking, moving forward becomes possible. Relying or waiting on others to apologize or their behaviors is not a pre-requisite to forgiveness.

Clearing Out Emotional Baggage

After clearing out the emotional baggage packed into life, caregivers can more easily move forward past the two things that caregivers fear the most. These two fears are asking for help and asking questions.

The two things that caregivers fear the most are common fears of aging parents, spouses, and other care receivers. Aging parents don’t want to ask for help. They don’t want to be a burden. Caregivers face the same fate; they fear to ask for help and hesitate to ask questions. This fear is based on the possibility that others view the caregiver as incapable of fulfilling caregiver roles and responsibilities.

The Two Things That Caregivers Fear The Most: Fear One Asking for Help

In my work with caregivers, one of the most common complaints is that no one offers to help. An expectation exists by caregivers that others should know how stressed they feel and make offers of help.

Few people understand what it is like to be a caregiver. Even fewer understand the life of a 24/7 caregiver. Caregivers experience criticism and judgment from others that contribute to the two things that caregivers fear the most.

Reflect and React

We control our actions and how we react to others. We lack control over the actions of others.

When we accept this concept, it is easier to reflect and react in a manner that has a positive, instead of a negative, impact on others.  Trust in working with others, and knowing that they are reliable and will work with us is a rare find.

Caregiving issues generate caregiving trainwrecks. When a situation occurs, those involved respond collaboratively or antagonistically, and the result of the interaction is positive or negative. The hope is that we have more positive situations than interactions that result in scorched earth events.

The skills to successfully navigate caregiving are difficult to anticipate. Caregiving takes more than love.

Multiple skills are required: communication, collaboration, teamwork, advocacy, negotiating, organization, time management, planning, investigating, questioning, and more. Very few of us are born with all of these skills that take time and effort to acquire.

Asking For Help

Caregivers perceive asking for help in a negative manner. Instead of viewing asking for help as a strength or as a wise choice, many views asking for help as an admission of incompetence. Women caregivers want to do it all without having to ask or rely on anyone.

There are other situations where multiple family members are involved, and one person bears the majority of caregiving responsibilities for an aging parent. This situation can be high conflict when the caregiver asks for help and help is declined.

In other situations, the main caregiver has made the situation seem effortless, so no offers of help are made. Sometimes the sole caregiver is overly controlling. Family members, who could help, run the other way to avoid involvement in a situation that is perceived to be a minefield.

Asking The Right Questions

Asking questions and especially asking the right question is a learned skill. In my years of working with caregivers and aging adults and training my staff, I encouraged questions. Many people hesitate to ask questions for fear of appearing stupid.

How many times have you been in a class, a training session, or at a presentation where the presenter asks if there are any questions, and the room remains silent. We all know that there are questions but no one wants to be the first to ask. No one wants to be judged or criticized by others in the audience for asking a question that may not be well thought out or a question that may appear stupid.

My mantra to all is “there are no stupid questions. Only the questions that you don’t ask that get you into the most trouble.” It’s always that one small thought that kept repeating in your mind, that doubt, that nagging question that you didn’t ask that you later realize could have saved you time, effort, money, or stress.

Caregiver Support Is A Path Forward to Eliminating Caregiving Mistakes and  The Two Things Caregivers Fear the Most

Caregiving issues benefit from a 360-degree view. By being the person on the outside and working with caregivers to look at the big picture and then solve day to day issues, I help caregivers transform situations that may have felt impossible. Twenty years of experience in thousands of different situations allows me to relate one caregiving issue to another to arrive a solution.

The process of listening, asking questions, and assessing situations is the start. Caregivers identify a single problem that after a ten-minute conversation with me—and many questions– turns out to be a symptom of another issue that caused the problem.

As caregivers work through situations, there is an admission of “trying to get through the day” without really looking at what was happening or the true cause of caregiving issues. Caregivers admit that getting help could have made previous situations better and easier. This 20/20 hindsight is valuable for learning to ask questions and ask for ongoing help and support.

Eliminating Fear and Gaining Trust

Eliminating the two things that caregivers fear the most in a safe caregiving support environment makes asking questions and asking for help easily. The high degree of conflict in caregiving makes it difficult to develop trusting relationships.

Family members disagree with other family members. Aging parents talk about one child without that child being present, resulting in creating animosity. Relationship aspects, roles, and responsibilities involved in caregiving can feel uncontrollable. Much like trying to encourage a new team to all move in the same direction when they have not previously worked together. 

Taking Action Results from Trust

When caregivers are in a trusting and positive support situation, efforts are applauded, understood, and encouraged. This is when taking action to make decisions and manage the roles and responsibilities of caregiving become easier.

Caregiving situations no longer flounder or feel like a struggle. Issues move forward as the result of the caregiver gaining confidence and self-esteem.

Confidence and Self Esteem Build and Care For Loved Ones Improves

It is this level of confidence and self-esteem that were missing before participation in a caregiver support group or course. Participation in support helps caregivers acquire the skills to ask questions without fear. Caregivers also come to know that asking for help is a sign of strength.

When knowing that the care of loved ones is a role and responsibility, the duty to do the right thing becomes more important. By eliminating the fear of questions and asking for help prior caregivers are able to do whatever it takes to get better care for loved ones who want to stay at home but don’t know what that takes. 

Health and Well-Being Become The Focus

The focus becomes the health and well-being of a loved one and the health and well-being of the caregiver. Doubts about skills and abilities are set aside through the action of joining a caregiving support group or attending a caregiving course or program.  Caregiver burnout, stress, and anxiety lessen.

By eliminating the two things that caregivers fear the most, caregiving roles and responsibilities take on a more positive light. Caregiving relationships improve. Caregiving issues that were previously intimidating become more routine. Problems are more easily solved.

For more information about caregiver support including the most commonly asked questions, CLICK HERE.

About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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