Think about it, some folks can take on caregiving chores and still be happy and others are absolutely miserable. They both have frustrations. They are both exhausted. Both of them are doing the best that they can.
June 15, 2022
Some of you don’t know that you are a caregiver. You think you are helping them out. It could be your mom or dad. It may be your husband, wife or significant other. We are resistant to be caregivers much less be called a caregiver. We really do not want that responsibility, do we?
Maybe that is just me, but I suspect that others out there feel the same way as I do. When my mom needed help, I did not consider myself a caregiver. She just needed help and we helped her. Daddy was the primary caregiver, I tried to support both of them, in ways that I could. With daddy, it was about listening to what he was going through. The frustration, the anger and the not knowing what to do. With mama, it was about listening to her anger, frustration and the irrational thoughts. Mama did not need personal hygiene care, she could take care of that herself, with modifications to the house.
To hear my daddy, say that he did not know how much more he could take, was hard. To hear my mama, say that she was going to divorce my daddy, was hard. To be summoned down to the house (an hour away), many times, was hard. I was working 12 hour shifts at the pharmacy and had three boys at home. Our stress was mental and emotional, not so much physical. It took about four months to get things back to “normal.”
I was dealing with a dad that did not believe in mental health treatment such as talk therapy and that medications might help. I had a mom that had changed both physically and mentally due to MS and mini-strokes. WTF. Now, dammit, this was my area of expertise and my own daddy is not listening to me. I finally convinced them to go to the neurologist and let the neurologist see what could be done. I worked behind the scenes with a message to the neurologist. My mom got the meds she needed and a couple of talk therapy visits. Things went much smoother after that.
It was good to hear from my dad that my mom was back to her usual fun self. It was good to hear my mom laugh again and be the jokester that she was. She cheated at the Rook card game; you know. We always had to make her stand up and turn out her pockets for that damn rook card.
During all of this, I was tired and frustrated. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t miserable. I didn’t hate every minute of help that I provided my parents. I didn’t hate that I was missing things with my boys. Disappointed, sure, but I was needed elsewhere sometimes. If your family needs help, you help them.
Other folks are angry. Sometimes, they are resentful and miserable for “having” to help. Maybe, the difference is in how you look at it or feel about your loved one? Feeling like you must help instead of wanting to help may be the key, I don’t know. Did you accept your role as a helper or caregiver out of love or obligation? Most of us have had no training and very few skills in this arena. It is on-the-job training or more likely, flying by the seat of your pants. If you are providing personal hygiene care or you are having to physically move or transfer your loved one, you do need training in how to do it appropriately and safely.
Personality Traits of a Happy Caregiver
- Patience – especially with questions, angry outbursts, length of time to do things
- Compassion – understanding what the other person is dealing with
- Empathy – understanding the feelings that others may be feeling or thinking
- Humor – finding something to laugh about in these difficult situations. We know how serious things are, but we need to laugh. Not at the person, but at the situation or other things.
- Present – be in the here and now, focusing on what they can do
- Detail Oriented – good management skills
- Able to Accept Help – a good caregiver lines up a team to help out
- Able to Set Boundaries – know your own limits and say “no” when needed
- Flexible – able to cooperate with others
- Assertive Advocate – getting the answers needed, making sure their loved one has what they need; being firm but not being an asshole (at first)
- Creative – some days things will work and other days you have to find something else that works
- Good Communicator – learn to communicate with your loved one in the way that they can communicate, especially if they are non-verbal now
How many of these skills do you have? Be honest. There will probably be a few that are not in your wheelhouse. That is okay, are you willing to learn? Are there some skills that you know you don’t have and are not good at? That is okay too. It is great to know what you are good at and great to know what you suck at. Use your strengths to your loved one’s advantage. Others will have different strengths to help. We can all improve.
Know this: You are perfect as you are… but you can always be better. We all have the struggle or tension between self-acceptance and self-improvement. We have talked about this before. It is progress over perfection.
Are you smart enough to know when you don’t know? Do you know how to find good and trusted information? Do you know when you are out of your area of expertise and need to hire that expertise?
Self-confidence in your caregiving abilities comes with time and patience with yourself. It comes with learning new ideas and ways to help. You may have to silence your inner critic. Your negative thoughts are not always right. They are only thoughts, so challenge them.
Confidence in your abilities is good. Over-confidence is bad. The goal is appropriate confidence. Focus on the effort. Keep learning new things. Listen to what others have to say.
A reluctant or sad caregiver has feelings of unfairness or irritation. You may even feel resentment. Resentment at the care receiver or resentment at the others who don’t or won’t help. Not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver.