Collective wisdom

CAREGIVERS’ COLLECTIVE WISDOM

Support group for shubhankars (caregivers) is one place where they find solace and strength to cope with the challenge of caring. The shubhankars of our Ekalavya SHG look forward to participating in these fortnightly meetings.  Apart from learning from each other’s experiments and experiences, they are at ease in the peer support groups. In the new shubhankars one finds a gradual transition from ‘Why me?’ to ‘I am not alone!’  Non-judgmental ambience of the group helps even the hesitant shubhankar to open up and share her thoughts and feelings.

To make participation in Ekalavya SHG meetings more informative, interesting and supportive there is a self-imposed protocol that is observed by our members: No discussion in the group on politics, race, religion, cultism or unproven ways of treatment as they are more likely to create differences than bonding amongst shubhankars. So also there is no discussion here on medicines without a qualified doctor being present.  This, however, does not prevent the shubhankars from choosing the line of treatment, trying parallel healing systems, visiting holy places, pursuing any political ideology etc.

As a trained facilitator of shubhankars and shubharthis (care receivers) support groups over the past decade I have been able to discover the enormous physical, emotional and spiritual strength in them.  While maturing along with the new shubhankars through these interactive meetings I have picked a lot from the veterans which one never finds in any text books.  Following is a brief narration of the strengths of those shubhankar gurus worthy of our contemplation and emulation.

SHUBHANKAR’S  EMPOWERING  ASSETS

1. Caring attitude: This is a very valuable asset.  A patronizing attitude builds barriers between individuals.  A caring attitude, on the other hand, promotes improved communication and relationships.

2. Empathizing: Being empathetic with the shubharthi helps to build rapport. No, please don’t have sympathy because it only hurts her as she finds nothing wrong with her and hence feels sympathy is misplaced.

3. Being patient: A Shubhankar either has or develops patience in super-human measure.  Progress and stagnation, ups and downs, hope and despair, come in waves and tend to overwhelm.  Encourage the shubharthi (care-receiver) for every little progress and withhold the temptation to criticize.

4. Reconciliation :  Accepting, rather than resisting, what has happened helps heal the situation.  When we are reconciled the impossible seems just difficult but yet do-able.  Disaster starts looking more like a challenge to grapple with.  The new non-resistant attitude also helps in overcoming the sense of shame and blame.

5. Nurture hope: Hope is life.  Without hope there will be no effort, no initiatives. A shubhankar nurtures hope in the shubharthi’s mind. Hope motivates.  But, above all, be realistic.  Do encourage practical goals but one step at a time.

6. Detachment:  Being objective, unbiased is difficult but not impossible.  Why can’t we be like a letterbox that is unmoved by the contents of the letters deposited in it!  Decisions taken with detachment are more accurate and useful. Over-involvement & anxiety can be overwhelming and counter-productive.

7. Being just human:   Though a lot more is demanded of a shubhankar’s role, don’t expect yourself to be super human. Never try to be an ideal or a perfect shubhankar.  Acknowledge yourself as being as vulnerable as any other individual with feelings and limitations.  Never imagine being a martyr though you may have to put up with a lot more sacrifices than an average person.  Self-pity can be a great stumbling block to one’s honing of coping skills.

8. Inner strength:  Tap and trust the tremendous source of inner strength.  Mental and physical fatigue affect your performance as a shubhankar if you ignore or under-estimate your internal resource.  In each of us there is that spark of the infinite universal energy and resourcefulness.

9. Self-reliance:  A caregiver has to specially learn the skill of nurturing self-reliance in a shubharthi.  But please encourage her to progress according to her own pace and capacity.  It doesn’t pay to push hard. Help in bringing about a gradual transition from dependence to independence.  To a caregiver what could be a more satisfying reward than his shubharthi becoming more self-reliant?

10. Vigilance:  Being cautious and vigilant is inevitable.  But don’t try to be a detective or a policeman.  Being discreet could help minimize risk of your being seen as suspicious. The advantage of this asset is it could help avoid emergencies and shubharthi falling prey to suspicions.

11. Faith: Having faith in your doctor, medicines, friends, neighbours etc. is essential while coping with the circumstances. Faith begets faith. Further, having unshakeable faith in God, the Almighty, Nature, the Higher Power, that binds the entire creation with universal love, can be an enormous source of strength. Hang on to it, come what may!

12. Humour:  You will find numerous laughable oddities when you look around.  Be in the company of cheerful persons as laughter is infectious.  This tonic will boost your coping strength while simultaneously providing relief to others in your life.  However be cautious not to hurt a shubharthi even unintentionally. Using humour inappropriately can have negative outcomes.

13. Self-renewal:  Recharging oneself, ensuring self-renewal is most essential for a caregiver.  So, delegate and share responsibilities with other family members or friends. Find time and space for meditation, hobbies, long walks, light exercises, reading, entertainment, vacations, workshops and lectures to upgrade knowledge and skills, etc.  These will keep the caregiver cheerful, healthy and more than fit to discharge one’s responsibilities.

14. Avoid condemnation :  Specific behaviour at times may be questionable or inappropriate but for this, don’t reject or condemn the entire person.  Neglecting personal hygiene by a shubharthi is part of his illness.  So don’t rush to label him dirty, lazy or irresponsible.  Being tactful and persuasive can be more useful and conducive to peace.

15. Being firm, yet gentle:  Sometimes it is necessary to be firm, but be aware of the consequences.  You can be gentle and helpful, giving alternative solutions to the problem which the shubharthi is incapable of suggesting.  Let the message be – you only have her welfare in mind.

16. Constructive criticism:  Let there be no emotional high or exaggeration  when criticism is unavoidable.  Let us be more balanced and watchful in expressing disapproval.  Choose appropriate words, tone, volume and stay conscious of being constructive.

17. Support group:  Being a part of a support group helps in many ways.  The feeling of isolation gets reduced or removed and you gain information through discussions and are able to derive inspiration and moral support from the group members. Mutual learning in the group helps one to further develop coping skills.

18. Crisis management:  A caregiver, like a fire-fighter, is required to swing into action in an emergency.  He readily has a plan of action and resources for such times. Keep important phone numbers. so handy that anyone can get them in emergency.  Thus suffering on account of delays for all concerned is minimized if not avoidable altogether.

19. Planning for the future:  Consult knowledgeable/professional persons so that your resources are utilized wisely, including providing for the future, your own, your spouse’s and that of your shubharthi and her siblings.

20. Reaching out:  Helping other families, which are still in the process of reconciling with new circumstances & lack coping skills, gives you a lot of satisfaction and strength.  Reaching out to other needy families is nothing but practicing day-to-day spirituality.  As you have sailed in the same boat, no one can empathize with these families as well as you possibly can.

Gurudatt Kundapurkar

SAA-Pune