Now that I have had a short excursion into the world of caregivers, I can consider myself some what of an 'expert' on the subject. (Well, no I am not an expert but at least I can write about it with some sort of knowledge, albeit very minor.) They say cancer is an isolating disease. If you haven't had cancer, you don't know what I mean. Just say 'I have cancer' and watch people disappear from your life. But being a caregiver is isolating, exhausting - emotionally and physically, and just plain overwhelming.
I spent the six days Walter was in the hospital, driving back and forth to the hospital, on the phone with the hospital, or sitting in an emotionally exhausted stupor. It was a trying time to say the least and one that I hope that I don't have to repeat anytime soon. And I wonder how he put up with me being sick all the time.
I think when you are the patient you do feel a bit more in control because you are making your decisions. When you are the caregiver, you need to let the patient go through the stages of decision making and dealing with their diagnosis. You sit helplessly and watch them deal.
There is a further progression in caregiving when the patient can no longer care for themself. Then I think the caregiver gets more responsibility and the dynamic changes. But regardless of the stage you are at, the caregiver needs to be cared for as well. Maybe its just a few hours of respite and being allowed to relax or just some attention to their well being, both mental and physical.