Learning to take the high road as a caregiver can be difficult. You can set out with the best intentions to be a compassionate, caring helper. Yet, when the immensity or duration of the job becomes all too apparent, it can seem as if you are a victim of your own kindness.
Be Aware of Frames
What mental image or personal standard do you have that you are setting out to meet in your care for another? What frame might the other person have? Seldom do people fit your picture perfectly and act just as you would like.
I had the idea that I would make the 4 hour round trip to my aunt’s once a week to fetch her (and her walker) from assisted living, take her to her house for 3 hours each time, methodically go through pre-planned areas, and decide with her what would become of her possessions.
Although agreeing with our plan, my aunt’s frame turned out to the opportunity for a drugstore stop, sifting slowly through recipes in the kitchen, sending me for a favorite sandwich, and taking a nap!
Lesson: Ask, “What’s your picture? And communicate yours. Come up with a plan that accounts for both to avoid being burdened by your own unrealistic expectations. When we don’t meet our standard, or someone else’s, we can be met with disappointment, frustration, or stress.
Decide Who You Want to Be Through Your Care
It’s been said that happiness is a decision made in advance. How hard it can be to consciously make that choice and keep it through challenging times!
I wanted my aunt to thank me and she did not. I wanted her to understand the extent of my sacrifices to do right by her; she seemed to have no clue. I wanted her to be happy with the plan I had for us. Sometimes I wished she would or could participate more enthusiastically. This made me realize that my frame included appreciation. How do I deal with that?
Lesson: Remember it is your choice to decide how and who you want to be as a caregiver. You can help freely or under duress. You can be loving or resentful. How you spend your time in thought about your care giving situation is who you become. Seek out someone who does appreciate you to help you reframe things.
Be mentally ready. When giving care, the unfamiliar can occur at any time; a new direction can occur without notice. The experience you gained one day may not be enough the next. How will you adapt?
The plan set in motion with my aunt was derailed by a fall, changing my venue from house to hospital, to overseeing nursing care. What frame would serve me now and in the days to come?
Lesson: Be as fully present as possible to remain adaptable. Bringing up the past or worrying about the future will not serve as well having patience for what is happening now. When you find yourself waiting, such as in a hospital, think of ways to help yourself be present and effective. Keep notes, organize tasks, say a prayer.
On the high road of caregiving, kindness for you both matters.