10 Things That Don’t Make Sense to Caregivers
The Caring Generation® – Episode 177 July 12, 2023. Learn ten things that don’t make sense to caregivers that may help you avoid unpredictable problems. Revisit things you may have heard but were not important at the time so that you can move ahead one day at a time toward achieving your goals. This podcast episode celebrates the beginning of year five of The Caring Generation.
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Caregivers—constantly in doing mode—may not make time to consider the long-term effects of decisions that seem insignificant at the time. Learn 10 things today that don’t make sense to caregivers until hindsight catches up with you later in life. These tips can help you avoid being filled with regret by offering insights for working through challenging situations and making difficult decisions.
Things that Don’t Make Sense to Caregivers
Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel
Caregiver skills are most often learned through experience in the school of life. As with many life roles, caregiving is often a do-it-yourself, paint-by-numbers job.
The work isn’t easy. Caregivers might feel taken for granted or resentful.
In fact, being a caregiver can require every last ounce of energy and mental strength you have. So if one of these tips catches your attention and helps you in any way, your time here was worth the tradeoff in comparison to all those other things you could be doing.
Because as we know, caregivers trade their time and their lives to care for aging parents, spouses, and others. Some of the insights offered here are not rocket science. You may have heard them and let them float by.
You weren’t motivated, or the information wasn’t important at the time. But now things are so much worse, and you’re looking for solutions.
This experience happens to all of us in one form or another. Sometimes we have to become so miserable that misery or dissatisfaction becomes motivational.
1 The actions of caregivers teach other people how to treat them
How people respond impacts self-esteem, confidence levels, health, and well-being. It doesn’t matter if you are the initiator with others responding to you or the receiver who responds to another person or event.
When aging parents or spouses don’t appreciate a caregiver’s efforts, it’s easy to feel unimportant or devalued, as if nothing you do makes any difference.
You may feel defensive if you have been treated poorly in any situation. If others have hurt your feelings or given you reasons not to trust them, you may hesitate to open up.
This hurt, or distrust may carry over into other relationships in your life or make it difficult for you to establish new relationships. So here are a few ways that actions teach others how to treat us.
- If you have good relationships with others, you may have positive self-esteem and be less anxious or stressed because you are not constantly worrying about what this person will do or say. One of the most significant parts of teaching others how to treat you is to be free of the unrealistic expectations of others that steal your time and your life.
- Modeling what you believe to be good behavior is a way to show others how you want to be treated.
- The example of your actions and the consistency of your actions is a step to treat others how to treat you. Many of you have heard the saying, act as if. If you want to be patient, be more patient. If you want to be loved, be more lovable. Whatever you want, you must do and be that thing or possess that quality.
Now I know many people who will immediately put this in financial terms of wanting a million dollars. It’s impossible to get from 10,000 to a million dollars overnight.
What is at the Core of Your Desires?
So you’re looking for the essence of what you want—the core of what you desire.
What would having a million dollars give you? Freedom, happiness, the ability to buy what you want, work that you love?
Or, if you want more freedom from caregiving responsibilities, what is the essence of that? Doing more things you want to do or having more free time to do nothing. What is that for you?
Let’s go back to the money example. Put $20 in your pocket, go to the store or online, and look at all the things you can buy—but don’t buy them.
Say to yourself. I have this $20 bill, and I can buy these things. Or I have $20. What can I do with this that would make me happy?
If you want more time for yourself as a caregiver, you must investigate how you will do less. Creating more time for you may mean bringing a volunteer or a caregiver into the home. Or moving a parent to a location where they can be cared for without you doing all the work.
I know that offering this example might take caregivers to a place of financial worry if a parent or parents did not save money for their care. If this is the case, investigate public assistance programs like Medicaid or Medical or Long term care support services before your parents run out of money. Investigate options now before your parents need more care than you can provide and you are burned out or exhausted.
So when you look at the concept of teaching other people how to treat you, this includes how you respond to them and vice versa. For example, if you lose your patience with another person and they lose their patience with you, then it is possible that the other person followed the lead of your behavior.
Another example. If you are a problem solver—which many caregivers are—you may want a parent or a spouse to be interested in problem-solving. If the person you care for has dementia or does not feel well all the time, this may not be possible.
So, you may want them to listen to your suggestions instead or be flexible enough to consider options that may include being open to receiving other types of help.
By modeling behaviors of problem-solving and flexibility, you set an example and establish boundaries about what you believe to be appropriate behavior. Then if the other person follows along, express appreciation, assuming that the behavior is good.
2 Don’t get caught up in peer pressure
If being a caregiver changes your beliefs or approach to life, your peers may not share the behaviors you model, which can be difficult. Let’s say you are at work, and one of your peers says something negative about another person. How do you respond?
Do you follow along with the negative talk and criticism? Or do you say I didn’t have that experience with John or Mary? Can you share more about the background of the situation?
Maybe everyone in the group thinks that talking behind another person’s back is okay. You or another person might view this behavior as disrespectful or toxic.
The person leading the negative discussion may lack conflict resolution skills or feel threatened by the person in question. Until you learn more, being asked to agree and take sides can feel uncomfortable. The person being criticized may have a very different opinion about the situation.
It’s Okay to Stand Up for Your Beliefs
So why it may feel uncomfortable to disagree with peers, you may need more information or may not want to be seen as oppositional. If the group or anyone is doing things against your morals or standards, asking questions is okay.
Let’s translate this experience to family caregiving. If you are a caregiver, you know that family members can be all talk, offering suggestions but not contributing any support.
Siblings and others can be critical of the efforts of the primary caregiver, who does all of the work. Yet say that they are too busy to help because of other priorities. If this is the situation, think about setting a boundary and say, “When you have time to help and can contribute, then you can have a say in what happens. If you only want to criticize my efforts, please don’t say anything at all.”
Aging Parents Can Fuel Family Disagreements
Similarly, don’t let the person you care for speak badly of others. The person criticized may be your siblings, their friends, or someone else. The behaviors of aging parents can be downright mean.
When the person needing care feels that their life is out of control, blame or criticism may be the only way to get attention. Avoid getting caught up in the middle of disagreements that you did not create.
Suggest that they directly talk with the offender to work out the problem. By taking these actions, you model respectful behavior. Running away from conflict and talking indirectly about other people does not solve the conflict.
3 While it may feel uncomfortable, it’s okay for people to disagree
When you have a different opinion, be kind and respectful—assuming this is how you want others to treat you. For caregivers, the challenge arises when caring for loved ones who agree in the doctor’s office but refuse to follow through with health, eating, exercise, or other recommendations.
As the caregiver, the refusals of care receivers can make you feel powerless over a situation you are trying to improve. We can’t motivate others to do anything. And if parents or a spouse doesn’t want to do something—even though there may be negative consequences they have the right to choose.
Becoming unattached to outcomes is critical if this person’s agreement or disagreement directly affects your life. If there is no direct effect, ask yourself why it matters if this person does X or Y.
Why are you invested in the outcome? Do you need to feel right? Does it make you feel important if others listen to you?
Suppose you live for the approval or need the agreement of other people to move ahead with your life. Having what-if discussions is essential. You may hesitate because you lack conflict resolution skills or feel it’s not worth arguing about X. If it’s bothering you—it’s important.
Let’s say you are caring for an aging parent and want them to pay for a caregiver. They don’t want to do this because you are the caregiver, and your time is free. You have a choice to make.
You want more time for your life, career, family, friends, and social life. If this is the case, ask yourself if you will be okay with reducing the time you spend with mom or dad after discussing hiring a caregiver.
Sometimes, guilt becomes a motivator for caregivers to remain in impossible situations. Think about whether you want someone else to have this degree of control over your life and your emotions.
4 Criticism is rarely about you
Rationalizing feelings of criticism, blame, or guilt can be difficult to understand. Especially if you are receiving a constant storm of emotions, criticism, and blame.
One way to add perspective is to ask yourself if you are critical of others or situations. If so, what is the problem or the characteristics of the person you do not like or the habits you criticize?
Then ask yourself if you see any of these things in your life. Or whether there was a similar person who made you feel insecure or who damaged your self-esteem.
Criticism and blame from others—whether you are doing or not doing the things mentioned—can be a heavy burden for anyone to carry. What can happen is that this guilt makes you want approval from someone you view as being disappointed in you.
These first four tips that don’t make sense to caregivers until later require thinking time to reflect and understand how negative people, feeling criticized or being influenced by peers, can impact a caregiver’s life.
The best care relationships balance aspects of wanting to be helpful while maintaining a sense of self. When caregivers attach their life to the person they care for, separating individual needs is difficult.
Maintaining independence or a sense of self benefits all relationships—marriage, friendships, or work. Imbalance arises when one person becomes needy and looks to another to meet their needs.
This power shift might happen when a caregiver gives up a career and moves into a parent’s home to care for mom or dad full time. Or a husband or wife gives up their employment and income to care for a sick spouse.
Caregiving relationships can be unbalanced even when the caregiver and the person needing care do not live together. So if you notice yourself shifting your focus solely to caregiving or single activity to exclude everything else in your life, let this indicate that life is becoming unbalanced and look for solutions to work through the challenge.
As a caregiver, I realize this can be difficult, especially if there is no one but you to care for a loved one. It can be impossible to understand how a short or long-term focus can impact family relationships, friendships, social relationships, work, and a caregiver’s health until you are in this situation looking back and saying, “Yes, that’s what happened. All I could tell myself was I must get through this and then deal with everything else.”
Living in the Past
Experience confirms that doing hard things and working through challenges raises tolerance levels for what you can do and what you are willing to do. But if you’re always the one doing the work, the person who is relied upon to save the day, this can have negative consequences for your life and well-being.
Living in the past and dreaming about what might have been is not a solution. You may imagine a life that would have never happened even if you made different choices. All we have is the present moment. The unexpected can happen at any moment.
So it’s best to choose how to move closer to your goals today and decide to be happy, not filled with regret.
5 Never offer advice or try to solve a problem unless you are asked
Ending the tendency to offer advice or step in to save the day can be difficult for caregivers who want to be helpful. Not helping may seem irresponsible when you believe you know what should be done.
But who says your way is the right way? Not everything you think is accurate is on target. Ask others, and you may receive a variety of opinions.
Consider that the solutions that work for you— because of your experience, knowledge, persistence, skills, and other assets that you possess—may fail for another person. And then this person who took your advice is angry with you.
Let’s use buying a car as an example. Your current vehicle has come to the end of its useful life, and repairs will cost you more money than the car’s present value.
For some people, the solution is simple. You buy a new or used car, sell your old car, donate it, or take it to the junkyard for scrap if it is unrepairable.
If you are buying a car, you can probably answer these questions. But if you advise someone else, do you know the facts about their situation?
- Is there a price range or a budget for a car—new or used?
- If so, is paying cash an option?
- If a loan is required, is this person employed with sufficient non-committed income to make the budgeted car payment?
- If a loan, what will be the loan length, three years, or five years?
- Are there additional funds to pay for car insurance and maintenance?
Gaining a Perspective About Different Life Circumstances
A simple solution to buy a car with all the considerations may be very different for you versus another person who may have a similar need but is constrained by very different life circumstances.
So when the person you care for, or anyone, expresses concern or complains, the best course of action may be to ask questions instead of giving advice. Their concerns may be based on past experiences, remembering mistakes they made, not having confidence that there is a solution, or so many other factors.
By asking questions, you might help another person think about issues they have not considered. While caregivers like to be helpful, they don’t take on other people’s problems. Be emotionally supportive but not directive.
Take a step back. Allow others to make choices and live with the consequences.
It can feel gut-wrenching to watch aging parents make bad decisions. They may refuse to take medications, exercise, or follow their doctor’s recommendations, so instead of feeling better, they feel worse.
Moving Ahead or Falling Backward?
It’s not only aging parents that experience the ability to make choices and live with the consequences. People make daily decisions that affect tomorrow, next week, and next year.
The problem is that decisions’ consequences are not always considered in a list of written pros or cons. For example, if I eat this piece of cake because I want it, but my goal is to lose weight If I eat the cake, then I am consciously doing something that won’t move me toward my goal.
Or, if I want to buy a car but need to save money for a down payment but retail therapy lifts my mood, then I won’t have money for a vehicle downpayment.
So you see, it’s easy to have a goal or want something but have habits or make decisions that take you further from what you want.
The best question to ask yourself and others who have concerns or are trying to solve a problem is whether this action moves me closer or further away from my short, medium, or long-term goal. And then decide the next step.
7 People only see the results, not the hard work or the years it took you to get here
If you are a caregiver, you put a lot of effort into caring for someone else. You can be proud of your efforts even if no one else appreciates the results.
This tip translates to asking for help or researching options so that you do not drown yourself in caregiving responsibilities and the whirlwind of related activities. It also means not taking the responsibility away from another person to help themselves.
Just because you are superhuman and can run to the grocery store and back in 20 minutes and a grocery trip takes mom or dad two hours doesn’t mean you should take over grocery shopping.
Allow others to do what they can and to control what they can.
Being self-sufficient contributes to having self-esteem and confidence. Taking over things another person can do, just because you can, doesn’t make this a wise choice. The choice can make other people more dependent on you.
Why do things that others can still do even if they don’t do them as fast or the way that you would do them? By taking on more work, you make more work for yourself.
Stop and think about this for a moment. Can you give work back to the person you care for?
Along these lines, if you are a superwoman or superman your siblings or others may not offer to help because even though you are killing yourself—you make it all look so easy.
I don’t recommend becoming a complainer or a blamer about all the work you are doing or the time you committed. You made the choice.
If you are a silent sufferer and are uncomfortable discussing the amount of work you are contributing and the time you are trading to be a caregiver, how will anyone know? Other people cannot read your mind, and they do not live your life.
Avoid blame and criticism. Instead, become a better communicator so that all relationships in your life can improve by having better boundaries. Value yourself.
8 The way you take care of your health in your twenties and thirties—or not—will result in how you feel in your 50s, 60s, and beyond
The health problems that the person you care for today—unless they were involved in an accident that caused injuries—are based on how they treated their bodies and their health habits 10, 20 or more years ago.
Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t show up all of a sudden. Research confirms there are signs 10 to 20 years before a diagnosis. Health habits and taking care of the body have a cumulative effort. So does saving money for retirement and paying for care when you are older. The earlier you begin, the more money will accumulate. Time has value.
The Value of Time
Health problems, once they show up, don’t magically disappear overnight. In fact, most people choose not to work to reverse early health problems.
Most people, instead of asking how do I not take this medicine, take the easiest path and start taking all kinds of combined pills that can cause more unintended health problems due to the side effects.
Now you don’t want to ignore health problems or your doctor’s advice, but it’s always good to ask. “If I don’t want X condition, X could be high blood pressure, diabetes, or another disease. How can I reverse this condition if I don’t want to take medications?
Don’t assume your options are limited. Then when you hear the response, be realistic about whether you will take the recommended steps to change habits that might contribute to high blood pressure or diabetes, or something else.
Once diagnosed, one chronic disease can lead to the next and the next and the next. So, a mom or dad with high blood pressure and diabetes who has mini-strokes may eventually be diagnosed with dementia.
One health problem can quickly cascade into four other problems if no one pays attention. So as a caregiver, make sure you have your annual physicals and participate in health screenings when recommended. Consider whether you want to get a yearly flu vaccine.
If you don’t care for your body, mind, and spirit, eventually, something will happen that will not make self-care optional. If you don’t have good health, it’s difficult to care for a sick spouse, parent, grandparent, or another loved one.
As the question? Does this action—self-neglect, procrastination, quitting a job, isolating myself from everything I love in life—move me closer or further away from the future that I want or from this particular goal?
9 Worry and fear can hold you back from the life that you want
Life is filled with uncertainties. Will Mom or Dad fall today or get sick and go to the emergency room? How much longer will Mom or Dad live if they are on hospice care? How long will I have to be a caregiver?
Procrastination. I’ll do this for myself when X happens. But when will X happen if I am not taking daily steps to get there?
Worry and fear can be paralyzing when one looks at all the uncertainties and feels overwhelmed with concerns about all the bad things that might happen. Think about decision-making as identifying probabilities. How likely to happen based on these factors and the information I have today?
Worry and fear can rear their ugly heads, primarily when self-esteem or a lack of confidence exists because of prior experiences. So if raising self-esteem and confidence will remove worry and fear, ask what you can do today to boost yourself mentally.
Can you start by reading something positive which puts you in a good mood? What about doing something small that makes you feel like you accomplished something.?
If you are in a good mood, you are more likely to feel good about yourself. Something small could be as simple as taking a shower, washing your hair, and getting dressed so that you feel and look good.
It could be as simple as doing laundry, putting it away, making your bed, and walking the dog.
There are plenty of things we all do every day that we can feel good about to raise confidence levels. If you are in unfamiliar territory, it’s time to research, consult a doctor, or ask someone else who has been through a similar situation.
As you do this, recognize that not all situations or outcomes will be the same. Think instead of probabilities. How likely is this to happen based on X and Y?
Let’s put this in perspective of finding a new job. If you apply for one job a month with high competition, will this get you a job offer?
How might the probability increase if you apply to one or two or more jobs every day of the week? Will you raise the likelihood of being contacted for an interview? I would say yes. Sixty to ninety applications a month to jobs for which you are qualified is more likely to lead to a job offer versus one application a month.
So by raising the number of invitations you receive to talk with people, you increase the likelihood that you will reach your goal of finding a new job.
The goal of reducing the time you spend caregiving so that you have more free time is similar. What did you take over doing for a spouse or parent that they can still do? Reverse course and ask Mom or Dad to do that thing again.
Who else can help reduce the time you devote to care? Can groceries and prescriptions be ordered online and delivered?
What other types of time-saving activities can be implemented? Can a neighbor occasionally help out?
What action or actions can you take today that move you closer to where you want to be? If you do nothing, you will be in the same place in a week, a month, and a year. You must make different choices if this isn’t what you want.
10 Life is short—learn to be alone and happy
Caregivers I know, including those in my online support group on Facebook called The Caregiving Trap, started as caregivers years ago. Some have been caregivers for 5, 10, 15, or 20 years.
Many are caring for aging parents and now a spouse. Caregiving is accumulative and can quickly consume your life.
There are so many things here that I mentioned that many of us don’t realize because we are too busy doing instead of asking how does – or does this action get me closer to where I want to be.
If not, is this a temporary situation? Or can I frame this so that I will do this for six weeks or six months and then re-evaluate whether I will continue to do this or not?
When you have 10 or 20 years left
One day you will wake up. It will be your 40th, 50th, 60th, or beyond birthday. You’ll ask yourself where all of the time went. We don’t consider how short life is until we work to the end of life.
Are you letting years pass due to laziness, indecision, procrastination, or being pulled away from important things or people to you? We’ve all been in places where we feel stuck because of life circumstances.
Life would not be life if this didn’t happen. It’s what we decide to do with the circumstances that affect us most, which can create the greatest changes in our lives.
Admittedly these changes can be positive or negative. Everyone makes mistakes that they can beat themselves up about or learn from.
You have the power today to ask yourself, is this moving me closer or further away from my goal of doing X or Y? If you don’t have an X or Y, find your why.
Why do you want to do this or that? What motivates you? What do you love to do?
Be thoughtful about eliminating things you love, people you love, good health, friends, or activities from your life. It might be more complicated than you imagine to restart good habits if you drop them, to work your way back into someone who has moved on with their life, and get back to work in a job you love at the same salary you left. All of these decisions, one by one, may not seem important, but when combined they can be life-changing.
The Caring Generation Celebrates The Beginning of Year Eight
When I look back at the years I’ve devoted to this podcast for caregivers—, it took time to see what this effort brought into my life.
Before the current podcast format, the Caring Generation was an internet radio program. Before that, from 2009 to 2011, the program was broadcast live in-studio on 630-KHOW AM in Denver, Colorado.
Looking back, it made me a better speaker, writer, creator, and researcher. Creating this podcast has allowed me to research and speak with people worldwide who have knowledge and experience and are willing to share it.
This podcast, website, blog, online caregiver support group, a library of articles, and online courses for caregivers offer proven tips and suggestions based on more than twenty years of experience working in the healthcare and caregiving industry. Use my experience to benefit your caregiving situation and thoughts about health prevention.
The only cost to you is the tradeoff in time that you could be doing something else. I believe that research and planning so that you and your loved ones can make the best decision is never wasted time.
The people I reach and connect with through this podcast who share their life experiences with me bring joy into my life. Sure, now and then, I think this is too much—creating the show takes up too much of my time.
Or what will I talk about this week? Amazingly some inspiration always comes to me.
So at least for now, I come back to the fact that if I stop researching, educating, and speaking, I will give up work that inspires me to keep going. Especially on those days when like most of you, I wonder if I’m making any difference at all.
For those of you who have been with me since the start in 2009 or beginning in 2019 or beyond, thank you for hanging in there with me. For those of you listening to this podcast for the first time – please check out the other 170 episodes. Share this podcast with everyone you know so that we can extend the support, education, and love that so many caregivers and the persons who receive care seek and deserve.
Looking For Help Caring for Elderly Parents? Find the Information, Including Step-by-Step Processes, in Pamela’s Online Program.
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