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Easy Caregiving, Simple Ways to Stop Making Life Hard

Posted Nov 09 2009 10:01pm

Have you ever noticed that some people have a knack for making hard things seem easy? Other people do just the opposite: they can make crossing the street a monumental, complex, pain-in-the-tush event. Caregiving is hard enough, we certainly don’t need to make it any harder. But how? By focusing on what you’re already good at.

I could spend less than an hour with a caregiver in their home and tell them not what they’re doing wrong (anybody can do that–look for imperfection) but they’re doing right. All of us have blind spots, weak areas, and it’s a ridiculous belief to focus on what you’re not good at–when it’s so much easier to build on your strengths.

Every person has unique abilities–some of us can make others laugh. Others are genius at organizing. Another caregiver might be great at navigating the treacherous waters of insurance and Medicare, and another might have a penchant for lining up volunteers to help or soothing someone with Alzheimer’s.

Stop beating yourself up and feeling guilty because you’re not the best on-time person or you’re just not affectionate or when you get stressed the laundry and the dishes pile up like a gigantic termite mound in Africa. Who cares? All of us are different and no one, no one covers all the bases.

Sometimes our family members only pick up on the negative. My mom could pinpoint what I hadn’t gotten to–and then she’d make sure she mentioned it. I try to remember that when someone’s critical it says a whole lot more about them than it does the person they’re criticizing.

I used to walk around with this thought in my head, “I didn’t ask for this!” Like that helped.  I had to let the world know I didn’t sign up for caregiving.

As my mom’s Alzheimer’s increased, I had to dig deep and refuse to be bullied. I decided that I was in charge. Not because I wanted to be, but because it was necessary. My mom needed me,  even if she didn’t know it. I had to not only stand up to her, I also had to stand up  for her. 

What a life lesson. Caregiving gave me the chance to find my inner strength and resolve that I could so use in other areas of my life.

I have a quote on my chalkboard wall that’s next to my desk, “Faith is Easy.” For years, I made faith, God, trust, believing–hard. I had that Puritanical view, “Work hard and God will reward you.” What a sad way to view a relationship with the Divine, or with anyone. There’s no grace, no flow–just work or be punished. I  no longer believe that.

I have by no means got it all figured out, only that I know that I know that I know that the deepest, most profound things about life are at its core, its essence, simple. Yes, it’s all mind-blowing complex, but I can relax and allow instead of living in a constant state of struggle.

One of my favorite authors, Marcus Buckingham wrote in Discover Your Strengths Now  that research has shown that the brains of infants are wired with many more neural connectors than any human needs. Think of it as the tendrils of a vine. As the child grows, tries things out, these tendrils die out in the weak places and literally redirect their strength to grow around the tendrils that’s made a connection. In other words, our brains grow strong rope-like connections around the things we’re good at.

So, what if you stopped railing against caregiving? What if you accepted where you are, today, as where you are supposed to be–and that good (for you) will come out of this experience?

Make a List of What You’re Good At:

  • What are the things you can do as easily as falling out of bed?
  • What compliments do you receive from others? (My kids say I make the best soups)
  • What activities (even caregiving chores) do you do that you don’t mind and even enjoy?
  • How can you delegate (get help) with the things you’re not so great at? (Can trade or barter with someone?_)
  • Give yourself permission to do 3 things a day–lousy–laugh about it
  • Before you go to sleep at night, give yourself a “shout out.” Look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud one thing you did really well. Then smile.

Will this make the tough job of caregiving suddenly a romp through a flowery meadow? Of course not. But every time you have a moment where you feel good about yourself, about your choice to care-give, and where you are in life–right now–the more you’ll be at peace with who you are and that’s bound to overflow into all you do.

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