The new year has just begun and it’s ready to be molded, directed, transformed even, into whatever you want! Sound too good to be true? It isn’t, but that statement can only happen with one essential ingredient, which you possess. It is possible to shape the next 12 months of caregiving – and beyond! – into something more pleasant and rewarding for everyone involved.
What makes the daring opening statement realistic? Your attitude!
As a caregiver, or in any role life places us, we have choices of attitude, perspectives and level of activity. We are not always victims of circumstance, but often, we feel defeated before the battle has begun! We can sometimes get caught up in the emotional chaos of shocking news or events, such as a terrible accident or the discovery of a malignant tumor. Understandable, as we are human! But as humans, we are also capable of dealing with such tragedies, and dare I say, of even growing stronger!
Last month, a caregiver asked in a blog what to do when her mother, who suffered from leukemia and depression, became agitated, angry and hurled nasty, untrue and hurtful insults at her. The reply she received from the blog owner suggested that the daughter adjust her attitude! I was taken aback by the response and actually felt a bit miffed for a couple of minutes. But then I thought, hmm… the mother is sick, very sick, depressed and feeling miserable. Can she be expected to be cordial all the time? Is it reasonable and realistic to expect someone so sick to always express herself in a positive light? Knowing that depression can turn people affected “into someone else” or make them say negative things about themselves and about others, should we take all of their words to heart? While words can hurt, they can only hurt as much as we let them! If we know that our mother (or other loved one) would never say those horrible things if she were healthy, then we must remember not to take them seriously. It may take some practice, but it is possible to not attach any significance to these words or actions that only occur as a result of a debilitating condition. The blogger plainly stated that the caregiver had a choice in her reaction: she could get all upset, or she could acknowledge that those nasty remarks were the result of her mother’s frustration with the disease that may very well take her life and refuse to let them bother her. After thinking about it, I had to agree.
Now no one said that this attitude adjustment would be quick or easy, but that is up to us. If we are determined to make our caregiving better, then we will do what we can to learn to step back from a bad situation so that we can put it in perspective. These steps have worked for me when things get rough:
- Remind yourself that any harsh words coming from your caree are more a sign of his / her frustration with the condition or limitations rather than any anger toward you, the caregiver.
- Acknowledge your mistakes or oversights instead of defending them. No one is perfect, so don’t waste your energy justifying your actions. It’s easier to accept the fact that we all make mistakes, even caregivers, and move on.
- Enlist help when needed, before you get to the end of your rope.
- Get rest. Eat healthy. Take breaks.
- Plan to do things you like, call or see friends.
- Learn about the condition, treatments, etc. so you have a good idea of what to expect and of when something is out of line and requires medical attention.
- Be grateful that you are well enough to take care of someone – the caree could just as well have been you!
- I pray for guidance, strength, patience & love – that they may show in my actions.
There are good days and tiring, challenging days for caregivers and everyone else. Your reaction to adversity makes all the difference!