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Emotional Support of Care Partners Web

Emotional Support of Care Partners Web

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Published by: Interfaith CarePartners on Sep 19, 2011
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01/17/2013

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701 N. Post Oak Rd., Ste. 330, Houston, TX 77024 | 713-682-5995info@interfaithcarepartners.org|www.interfaithcarepartners.org
 
1
Emotional Support of Care Partners
In some cases, the presence of Caregiving Team support can change the presentingneed by assisting with some tasks. However, Team members can always affect thepresenting need by providing emotional support through coming alongside the carepartner and establishing a relationship.The first step in providing consolation to a person is offering companionship. The Teammember might provide practical assistance, but it is the relationship that is formed in theprocess that is the essence of Caregiving Team ministry and a source of emotionalsupport for the care partner.A care partner might have physical issues of mobility or vision that have cut heror him off from other relationships. One woman expressed it this way,
I have anincreasing need for loving care and companionship and decreasing resources toobtain what I need.
Sometimes these changes occur suddenly and the carepartner is still adjusting to these limitations and the emotions they create. TheTeam member cannot change or solve these problems. However, the ongoingtrustworthy presence of the Team member creates a safe space where thesefeelings of loss and need can be expressed. Creating a personal relationshipmight be new for both parties, so the initial contacts may be exploratory as eachlearns from the other how to proceed.
Generous listening, similar to the way Job’s friends sat with him, may
be a goodway to provide emotional support. Generous listeners make themselvesavailable to a care partner by stopping their own need to talk and start to listen.A Team member suspends for the moment,
one’s
own thoughts and interestsand allows a care partner to do all the talking. The Team member canacknowledge what is being said, even repeat a summary of what the care partnersays, to let her or him know it was heard. A Team member does not have tohave a solution, indeed there may not be a solution; just allow a care partner tosay all they want about the topic. Listening and companioning is ultimately morehelpful than trying to fix.Providing emotional support is not about changing a
care partner’s emotions
, butabout being with them and allowing them to name their emotions. It may be thatthe reality of their illnesses and circumstances has made their quality of lifeextremely fragile and future uncertain. It is not helpful to talk them out of feelingfearful or other valid feelings. If the T
eam member cannot “see how they
might
feel that way,” they could encourage them to talk to their doctor about
unreasonable emotions that are consuming all their attention and energy. Their
 
 
701 N. Post Oak Rd., Ste. 330, Houston, TX 77024 | 713-682-5995info@interfaithcarepartners.org|www.interfaithcarepartners.org
 
2
emotions or feelings may require a consultation with a professional counselor ortherapist. It is not necessary for the Team member to attempt to make themfeel better or drag them into a happy, more hopeful view. Just be present and
hear them. “Presence, communion with the sufferer,”
to use
Wendy Farley’sphrase, is a “balm to the wounded spirit…
.that mediates consolation and respect
that can empower the sufferer to bear the pain.” (
cited in Shelp and Sunderland,
Sustaining Presence
, 2000, p. 73).Another way a Team member can provide emotional support is to engage care partnersin topics of reminiscence. Eric Erickson theorized that healthy adult developmentincluded a final developmental task which adults universally must address: integrity
versus despair. Talking about one’s life
 /career memories is a path toward integrity; that
is, by making sense of one’s memories
and integrating them into the presentcircumstances and future decisions. This reminiscence is usually accomplished with asignificant other, although most of the time not in a formal deliberate way. Teammembers are not trained to do life review in any systematic way, however, it can be anatural part of the companionship process.A Team member might ask care partners questions that would help them reflect on theirpast life-career experiences, such as the following:What advice would you give a young person who is starting a career?What was your favorite job? Why?Which years of your life, as you look back, were the most satisfying?Why?What have you thought about your legacy? What do you want it to be?What have you learned about having other people assist you?What has been the most difficult thing to cope with lately?How would you compare coping with recent things, compared to otherchallenges you faced earlier in your life?For further discussion during a team meeting, ask the following:1. Recall a time where you received emotional support. What means of support werethe most meaningful to you?2. How can you encourage your care partner to reminisce?Reminiscing can open up closed emotions and be a very powerful experience. If you
have concerns about a care partner’s reactions then consult with
your clergy and Teamleader for an appropriate referral. Engaging in this limited way to reminisce with a care

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