Burn Injury: The Importance of Caregiving

It is not easy to be a caregiver. From the very beginning burn survivors and their caregivers have dissimilar agendas. Survivors, living from a position of vulnerability, will do anything they can to rapidly get back control of their lives. Caregivers, on the other hand, stress protection and support, even if that sometimes means blocking the survivor's wishes. Also, for one burn survivor there are several caregivers. Each caregiver has their own personal opinion as to "what is best for their patient". As a result the stage is set for disagreements and power struggles among well-intentioned people whose goal is not to defeat anyone but only to be helpful. It is not easy to be a caregiver.



The main caregiver is in charge. Somebody in the support system must step forward rapidly to act as the boundary between the survivor and everyone else. This is done by taking decisive accountability for chief decisions. Others may propose suggestions, but this primary caregiver, who is usually a spouse, mother, father or a spouse-equivalent, and has the last word.

It is said that warmth, compassion, security, a willingness to touch and caress, the commonly accepted hallmarks of caregiving, are typically female traits. Male caregivers are most effective when they supplement their manliness with a stroke of femininity.

First a caregiver must baby a burn survivor. Then when the recovery is at the proper stage, he or she should be weaned. A caregiver must always make sure that they do not misuse power. As the survivor fights to get by one day at a time, the caregiver must calmly handle the burn survivor's psychological control that he or she tries put in to play in order to take advantage of the caregiver, family member or situation. At best the survivor will do so in a perceptive and thoughtful way, but from time to time they may try to control their caregiver and others by creating blame. This can create a scene. The test for everyone, especially the primary caregiver, is to react to the need but not to counter with any misbehavior. That may require "tough love".