Caregivers’ Choice: Take it on the Chin, or Chin Up (Part one)

Categories: Care.

Caregiving is hard. There’s no doubt about it. It’s hard for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that you’re in emotional turmoil most of the time, dealing with unknown and unpredictable variables, in a relentless juggling act, without any certainty about what’s coming around the next bend in the road.

You’re hoping for the best, with no guarantees, and among the choices you have is how you get yourself through. That’s why attitude is so critical, even in a terminal situation.

Those caregivers who were in denial or who felt they would just have to ‘take it on the chin’ through a difficult experience seemed to have the most challenging and protracted healing. Taking it on the chin meant they couldn’t sustain positive energies for their loved ones during treatment. Those who did find ways of coping to some degree actually began their healing during the caregiving process. They approached caregiving as a ‘chin-up’, make-the-best-of-a-nasty-situation experience.

Interviews with 95 family caregivers for 117 patients with more than 40 different cancer diagnoses from 19 American states and two Canadian provinces revealed four common issues facing family cancer caregivers where caregiver choices can make an enormous difference in how the cancer experience feels:

  • Control: It’s gone in a flash
  • Hope: It’s elusive
  • Isolation: It’s inevitable
  • Normalcy: It needs building anew.

You can see that the first letters of these words spell ‘CHIN’. The choice for caregivers is whether to ‘take it on the chin’ or take a ‘chin-up’ approach, trying to turn lemons into lemonade. 

In her article, published on the Canada edition of ehospice, the author explores each of these factors, looking at how caregivers cope with (sometimes drastic) shifts in control, hope, isolation and normalcy. 

About the author

Deborah J. Cornwall is the author of ‘Things I Wish I’d Known: Cancer Caregivers Speak Out’, a new book based on interviews with 86 cancer caregivers and dozens of patients and survivors. For more information or to purchase the book, go to www.thingsiwishidknown.com.