In honor of National Hospice Month, we recognize the caregivers and the need for self-care. The Right. Rev. Mary Francis Drake urges caregivers to act both as the pillar of strength for their patients and for themselves.
“Compassion takes strength, and the ability to be strong for someone else often stems from one’s ability to be strong for oneself. Caregivers need to remember, they can’t pour from an empty cup,” Drake said.
Drake shares numerous pieces of crucial advice for caregivers. She emphasized the importance of self care and recognizing one’s limits, asserting that it’s okay to request assistance. Her key recommendations include:
- Use support groups: Participating in real-world support groups or engaging with online communities for caregivers can be tremendously beneficial. Shared experiences can offer comfort, empathy, and practical tips based on first-hand knowledge.
- Leverage therapeutic tools: Grief and stress management strategies such as yoga, meditation, and painting can be incredibly cathartic. Drake further underscores the value of therapeutic writing and journaling, reflecting her own stature as a published author and poet.
- Don’t shy away from professional help: Drake firmly believes in the value of counseling or therapy, especially for those struggling with accumulated grief, stress, or anxiety related to caregiving. In such instances, professional advice can provide vital coping strategies and mental health support.
“I don’t want to differentiate too much between professional and family caregivers, as both groups carry a heavy emotional and physical load,” says Drake. During Hospice Month, she implores us to remember those that serve others and underscores the physical, mental, and emotional tolls of caregiving.
Our culture, says Drake, could do a better job of providing post-caregiving support. It’s a widespread misconception that once the act of caregiving ceases, the person who provided that care simply moves on without lingering effects.
“Even to the point of watching a movie, there’s often no one there to care for the caregiver in the aftermath. We’re not just talking about grief, but also relief,” Drake said.
The journey with a patient, according to Drake, is a shared journey of walking someone home, a path that takes a toll on everyone involved in the end.
The process of grieving, says Drake, is typically a three-year procedure. “During the first year there’s a lot of physical and emotional shock. The second year tends to be harder. The third year is when one starts to regulate, that is if you have support,” she adds.
She further highlights that this is amplified even more for those in a hospice work environment. It’s not uncommon for these workers to endure over 50 losses in a year, which results in an immense accumulation of grief.
“We need to be together. So no one person is overly burdened,” Drake added. She recommends participating in events such as annual bereavement memorial services and other grief processing rituals. These opportunities allow people to pause, reflect, remember and heal.