This message is dedicated to those faithful caregivers who, by no fault of their own, are stuck in a seemingly, hopeless medical ordeal.  It is about hope – hope for the caregiver and hope for the patient.  Sickness can have an oppressive effect on those most closely involved.  If a caregiver’s hope is now missing or slipping then the issue becomes restoring hope.  Hope can be restored. Hope is the result of positive thinking.  Hope is like love, it invigorates and uplifts.  Hope is necessary and healthy for both the caregiver and the recipient of the care. To help you, lets explore what hope really is.


Far too many cases studied revealed an alarming lack of hope exhibited by those who were providing care for their critically and terminally ill loved ones who, in many cases, have also become sadly negative, frustrated and hopeless.  Logic suggests that these attitudes will eventually rub off on each other, causing hope to dwindle for both of them.  That doesn’t have to happen. So, what can be done?


Hope Is Being Positive - Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large.  As a verb, its definitions include: "expect with confidence" and "to cherish a desire with anticipation".  Among its

opposites are dejection, hopelessness and despair. (12)


Hope Is Being Optimistic – Winston Churchill, the extraordinary Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II, was a perfect example of an individual whose words and actions enabled others to stay optimistic and dare to believe that good could come out of difficult circumstances.  He had a way that shouted out optimism.  He knew what to say and do and he said and did it.  One day while asked about how he could be such an optimist during such dark days, he replied “didn’t seem much use being anything else.”


The war certainly provided Sir Winston Churchill the stage, but my guess is that individuals like Winston Churchill would have found another stage if it hadn’t been for the war.  We each have a

stage.  It has been provided for us.  It is our family, our friends, our neighbors, our associates,and others who do or could believe in us.  We can be optimistic like Sir Winston.  We can use our stage for presenting a more positive view of all things, particularly about our caregiving responsibilities.


But the matter-at-hand is the care of our loved ones, patients suffering from disease or injury.  It is imperative that we be optimistic for them, even when we might not feel optimistic. Attempting to bring about an attitude of optimism can, in fact, bring it about.  We become what we think about and what we say and do.  Being optimistic is worth working on.  Your loved one will not miss your increased efforts to be optimistic.  It may be contagious!


Hope Is Fighting Through It – I know the story of a man who is facing huge odds.  His financial costs are escalating and his wife’s ability to understand him and his efforts seem to be going the opposite direction.  His story is similar to many others I studied.  Many feel that all they do is work and fight and see minimal and/or negative results. They want to retire from the caregiving arena. Unfortunately that option is seldom available.


Hope Is Comforting and Motivating – The Merriam –Webster dictionary says that hope is: “to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true… or  cherish a desire with anticipation… to desire with expectation of obtainment.” (38).


The definition pertains to the short term.  My experience with hope is long term.  I have always focused on long term objectives.  That focus was easy with hope.  Hope  provides a clarity that helps make decisions and efforts effective.  Hope doesn’t vanish with difficulty or hardship.  Hope, very possibly, can come to an individual easier than expected and stay longer than originally thought.

Hope Is Valuable In the Healing Process – Hope is like faith. It provides strength in a moment of weakness and determination when faced with difficult odds.  Hope has been a continual reinforcement for my life. Hope has provided peace when it was most needed.  Wikipedia, in discussing how valuable hope is in the healing process, says this about hope:


“Hope has the ability to help people heal faster and easier.  Individuals who maintain hope, especially when battling illness, significantly enhance their chances of recovery.” 


This is important because numerous people with chronicphysical, or mental illness believe that their condition is stable and that they have little chance of recovery. If health care providers begin to recognize the importance of hope in the recovery process, they can learn to instill hope  within their patients.  This would enable patients to develop healthy coping strategies and therefore improve their physical and emotional well being.


Hope is Helping Shape Others' Beliefs - Shaping people’s beliefs and expectations to be more hopeful and optimistic is an essential component of positive psychology. In general, people who possess hope and think optimistically have a greater sense of well being in addition to the improved health outcomes outlined above. Positive psychologists teach strategies to help boost people’s hope and optimism, which would benefit individuals coping with illness by improving their life satisfaction and recovery process.

Hope Is Believing – So often the disappointing prognosis of a physician wipes away belief that things could get better.  There are enough recorded instances where, against all odds, a patient recovers from impossible odds.  In other cases, although there is an inevitable end to the sickness, life has been extended and health regained.  Our loved ones will sense our hope by the way we speak and continue the relationship.  We must believe, in order for them to believe.  For many, prayer will provide strength.  For others just believing may be enough.  In any event, there is simply too much history proclaiming the wonderful news that lives have been miraculously prolonged and joy has been provided to anxious loved ones.  Who is to say that this could not happen in your caregiving.  I promise you that maintaining your hope can increase the chances of prolonged health for both of you.

Hope is Believing You Will Be Strong – Strength can come from actions other than exercise and lifting weights.  There is emotional and psychological strength.  It may one day be necessary to draw strength from all of these sources.  Certainly caregiving can be physically exhausting, but so can it be emotionally tiring.  The pressure to perform, and to be decisive, is difficult for some individuals.  Everyone can draw strength from available actions such as exercise and proper eating.  Strength can come from associating with positive people.  Identify those most apt to be of assistance and seize available opportunities.  Be the first to notice that you need hope and how you best can obtain it.  Overcoming the fear of not succeeding and/or surviving can be exhilarating.


Hope Is Believing You Will Survive – Caregivers are used to giving their all they can.  The medical necessities demand that certain actions be taken.  Over time it wears on the caregiver.  I have spoken with caregivers who feared they might not live long enough to finish providing necessary care for their loved one.  It is hard to imagine providing service to someone who is ill would be so physically demanding.  While the physical requirements are demanding, the emotional pressure of medical responsibility also takes its’ toll. 


Hope Is Overcoming Fear - The fear of making a mistake, or missing a feeding or failing to take medicine on time, etc. are all complicating pressures.  Caretakers relate that they fear they will not be physically well enough to survive.  Occasionally they doubt any desire to survive.  Let that not be you!  There is always something you can do to lift your will to survive.

Final Thoughts - Hopeful, of course comes from the word hope, meaning "optimism about a future event."  So if you're hopeful, you're full of hope: You think something good is going to happen. You might be hopeful that you'll be offered something valuable soon. Hopeful can describe a promising person who wants to succeed at a particular goal. You can be that person.  The goal for caregiving is providing comfort and care to a loved one that will lead to recovery or an extended life.  Despite the fatigue, loneliness and frustration, hope can be the ultimate and eventual strength for survival.  Take a rest but never give up.  There will always be something to hope for.  There will always be things you can do.  There will always be joy in succeeding. There will always be hope - hope for you.