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3 Action Words for Coping as a Family Caregiver

Do you feel at a loss, taking on the role of family caregiver in addition to your other responsibilities and challenges? It helps to be in control by having adaptive coping tools at your disposal. To face and transform the challenges, consciously self monitor with self awareness by applying the action words of the 3-A Coping Framework: Acknowledge, Assess, Assist. An underlying assumption in applying these 3-A action words is that wherever there is adversity, there is loss.

Acknowledge the loss(es) that accompany adverse circumstances. For instance, in the family caregiving role involving chronic illness/frailty, there is the loss of your family member's health and there are associated subsequent losses such as loss of control, freedom and the roles that your family member played in your life. At the same time, there are other losses not associated to your family member's illness. There could be multiple losses such as those related to the present pandemic, financial or job loss

Assess the impact that the losses currently have on you. Another assumption of the 3-A Coping Framework is that grief is a reaction to loss. Grief is not just about loss due to death. Grief can be a reaction to many circumstances including the loss of a job, finances, as well as the loss of a family member to Alzheimer's or other serious illness. While you can be impacted as a family caregiver to the demands of care, you also can be impacted by the grief due to loss. Self monitoring with self awareness can inform you so that you use appropriate assisting strategies..

Assist by taking the first step of assessing your conscious intention to cope. With conscious intention to cope, you are equipped positively to assist yourself with assist strategies. Although grief is not a pleasant experience, processing the grief can lead to peace, resolve, comfort, truth - leading to personal growth, another assumption of the 3-A Coping Framework. The action word of assist allows for various assisting methods in addition to grief strategies to be utilized - operating under the principle of whatever works for the presenting challenge.

Addressing the grief can serve as a powerful transformative resource as described in the following excerpt from my book Keeping It Together: How to Cope as a Family Caregiver without Losing Your Sanity:

"By acknowledging and assessing the caregiver grief you are experiencing in the now, you can use the grief as a powerful resource for positive transformation. Your feelings are the emotional landscape within you. They inform of danger through fear, disturbing situations through anger, joyful events through happiness, and remorseful events through sadness. It is wise to also be cautious since your emotions can be deceiving. For instance, you may feel guilty for enjoying time away from the person you are caring for. In reality, it is actually healthier to have enjoyable times to counteract the toll that grief and caregiving demands can take.... Whether your emotions are informing or deceiving, they are real. You can benefit by practicing self-awareness. Face and manage your emotions by applying action through the words acknowledge, assess, assist. By distinguishing between the helpful emotions and the saboteurs of .your emotional stability, resiliency gets strengthened which helps you to keep it together... Although acknowledge is positioned first in sequence, it is not to be considered the first step or phase or stage of the 3-A Framework. Each of the words can operate as verbs alone and be interdependent of one another. A healthcare professional is assisting by assessing if the family member is acknowledging the loss and how the reaction to the loss is manifesting. For self-care and self-development, family caregivers can assist themselves through acknowledging their losses and assessing for themselves how the reaction to the losses are manifesting... Acknowledge on its own can bring relief similar to the relief of receiving a diagnosis for puzzling symptoms. I have observed a sense of relief from family members when I shared with them my assessment that they were grieving, assisting them to identify their experience. It made sense to them."

In addition to suggesting that you cautiously acknowledge and assess your emotional reaction, I informed in the book excerpt that there is not a firm order in using the action words. Acknowledge, Assess, Assist can be used on their own or simultaneously. You are assisting by acknowledging and assessing. You probably are using the action words unconsciously. By being conscious while using Acknowledge, Assess, Assist, you are consciously self monitoring with self awareness and empowering yourself for strengthened resiliency.

Have you acknowledged and assessed how well you are coping? It is important to assess if your coping strategies are assisting. Acknowledge, Assess, Assist for yourself!

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