You never know where your strength is going to come from - it has been said that it comes out of working through adversity and loss. Caregiving with Strength is a book that offers an empowering regimen for those providing care for the chronically ill. Loss and grief processing is presented as a pivotal element of the regimen. Since nobody has died, you may be asking yourself: why grief? It has been found that grief is a major barrier that family caregivers face but gets buried under care demands. It is worth digging up and processing the grief to potentially obtain increased strength.
Featured in this book is a method called the 3-A Approach that I developed specifically as a tool to shovel up the caregivers' buried losses and grief that tug at their heart strings. A major assumption of the 3-A Approach is that wherever there is adversity, there is situational loss™.
Situational loss is the loss of a person, thing or quality, resulting from alteration of a life situation, including changes related to – in addition to death – illness, body image & environment.
The Mosby’s Medical Dictionary 8th ed. (2009)
While dealing with the care demands, the 3-A Approach is applied to acknowledge the losses stemming from the illness, assess the impact, and assist in strategizing and monitoring to move forward feeling stronger.
The 'things' and 'qualities' lost relates to what the chronically ill person represented in the family caregiver's life and the effects of the changes due to the illness. To illustrate, Tibor was a carer for his spouse who was diagnosed with early onset dementia under the age of 60. I was assisting him in processing his losses and grief while caring for his spouse. In an online interview we did together for Family Caregivers Unite! on Voice America, he acknowledged many losses including loss of companionship and the roles his spouse played as a life partner.
Spouses lose the companionship and intimacy that played a significant part in their marriage. I have often heard spouses of people with dementia such as Tibor say, “I am married, but I am not married,” especially after there has been the move to a long-term-care facility due to the decline in health status. As 'married widows,' they are left involuntarily to fend for themselves. The marriages of adult children caring for chronically ill parents may also be adversely affected due to the strain and loss of time spent with their spouses. Parents of chronically ill children may experience marital conflict as well.
Acknowledging, assessing and assisting through situational loss helps in uncovering and clarifying unclear losses, removing the ambiguity by associating reactions to life-altering situations related to the illness. It is difficult enough just to be experiencing loss without having others not acknowledge that loss is occurring. Practicing the Caregiving with Strength's regimen using the featured 3-A Approach is meant to be of benefit to the caregivers which ultimately benefits the care recipients as well.