Are You Codependent?

Being a caregiver for the terminally ill is quite a powerful position to be in.  On the other hand, if a caregiver is feeling a sense of power over their patient then something needs to change immediately.  Regardless of the illness, a patient is a person with rights and dignity.  When spouses are put in a position of caring for their very ill partner, it is common for codependency to creep in, and the most destructive element of caregiver-patient codependency is exhibiting power over the ill.

As a caregiver to your loved one, you are just as emotionally vulnerable as they are and can easily fall into a codependent relationship.  Learn to spot the signs of codependency within yourself, and use these tips for combating it.

My Way or the Highway

When we are the primary caregiver to a loved one, we become so immersed in their every waking moment that we can easily become obsessive.  When others step in, whether they are medical professionals or not, we might insist upon everything being done our own way.  Why? Because we feel we are the only ones who know what is best for the patient.  Everything must happen the way we want, or heads will roll.

Not only does this sort of attitude step into the realm of exhibiting power over the patient, it removes all dignity and decision-making from them.  The illness belongs to the patient, thus it is their decision how they choose to live with it. Take a step back from the care, and hand over decision making to the patient.


Please Them, Not Me

This lies on the other end of the spectrum from the scenario above.  As doctors and specialists come in and give their orders, we may take down all the advice in great detail and carry it out with precise accuracy.  Yet, some of those bits of advice were not really agreeable to you or your patient.  Some things were downright wrong, in your opinion.  Never mind, they must be right if they are doctors.  But as praise and kudos pour in from medical professionals, a sense of fulfillment removes all doubt.  That is, until next time.

When we carry out the doctors and therapists orders without question (despite our own misgivings), just for that lovely warm feeling of fulfillment, then codependency has settled in.  When the care becomes more about your fulfillment than it does the benefit and dignity of the patient, it is time to refocus.  The solution lies in learning solid communication tools for use between you, the patient, and the doctors.  Everyone must have a voice, and each voice must be heard.

Loving the Dependency

Every human being on this Earth wants to feel wanted, needed, valued.  When we are in a position of caring for the ill, it is very easy to fall into a pattern of feeling pleased that you are depended upon so very much.  When there is no sense of fulfillment outside of the care-giving relationship, then the caregiver can find himself in such a position.  In some cases, it can become obsessive.

Parents know they are depended upon by their young children, but often work hard to have an outside source of additional fulfillment to keep a balanced mental state.  There is no avoiding the dependency children have upon their parents; however caregivers for the terminally ill can limit the dependency.  Treat the patient with age appropriateness by handing the decision making process over to them and be direct in your communication.  Let them think for themselves, even if you are positive you know what they want.

Are you codependent?  If the answer is yes, it’s okay.  It is a very common occurrence, but knowing is the first step in changing.  By relieving yourself of codependency, you will experience less anger, resentment, stress, and frustration.  Your workload will decrease as well.  Most importantly, the final weeks and months with your ill loved one will be much more peaceful.

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