Caregiving Blog: 10 Tips for Responding Positively to Unexpected Caregiving Changes

Caregiving responsibilities change daily. Having strategies to respond positively to unexpected changes is important to maintain balance and perspective. Changes occur in the care for aging parents or a spouse and also for the caregiver.

The change may be a change in health, change of appointment time for a medical appointment, change in medication, change in diet, or many other possible changes. Caregivers experience changes in employment, family life, raising children, pursuing education, activities, and friendships.

Change can be welcomed or dreaded. By using positive coping skills, the ability to respond to change becomes more routine instead of upsetting.

Most caregivers experience feelings of stress and anxiety. Hypersensitivity to the ringing of the phone and the dread of another emergency call is carried like a ball and chain attached to the ankle. For some caregivers who are spouses or who provide care 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, there is no time off and no time away.

The following are 10 tips to help manage unexpected caregiving changes with a positive approach

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. Socrates

1 Start the day with a smile

Identify a morning routine that starts off the day positively. Meditate, exercise, listen to your favorite music, or drink a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. Find a way to take 30 minutes to boost your energy and mental outlook. This routine will support maintaining balanced emotions throughout the day. When or if an unexpected change occurs, you will maintain your composure, patience, and smile.

2  Have faith

Faith gives us hope and helps us continue forward in the midst of challenges and difficulties. Faith is a component of belief that we can achieve our desires. What we believe we create in our day to day reality. If we believe we will have a bad day, by making this suggestion to our mind, a bad day will occur.

If your days are not to your liking, review the thoughts you are feeding your mind. Have faith and believe that good things will happen. The universe will open the door to positive events and opportunities.

3 Reinforce positivity

When caregivers experience daily changes and ups and downs, it is easy to become a negative or worried thinker. This type of mindset serves neither the caregiver nor the care receiver. Practice removing negative thoughts from your mind. Each time a negative thought enters your mind, turn it into something beautiful, like a colorful butterfly, and send the butterfly away. The repetition of sending away negative thoughts will reinforce positive thinking in all that you do.

4 Practice self-suggestion to build confidence

Caregiving is a role for which there is no instruction manual. Many believe that caregiving is limited to caring for an aging parent or spouse. The reality is that the role of a caregiver is like being an air traffic controller who coordinates a team of health, financial, and legal providers.

In addition to the aging parent or spouse is the hospital, doctor, physical and occupational therapist, pharmacist, in home caregivers, and possibly care community staff. Financial planners may be involved to plan for costs of care. Attorneys may be involved for estate planning.

Many family caregivers lack the experience to advocate when they believe that others are more educated. Some are fearful to speak up for fear of retribution. As a result, caregivers become fearful, feel inferior, lose self-esteem and doubt abilities. Practicing self-suggestion to build confidence is important. Repeat positive statements each day to build confidence and self-esteem.

Create statements that give you comfort. Examples may be: “I am more confident every day in my abilities to caregive.”  “I am an effective advocate for my loved one.” In time you will gain confidence in your abilities through the repetition of positive statements. This positivity will support you in coordinating care with those who support your loved one.

5 Ask for opinions and guidance

The role of caregiver crosses many professions: medical, financial, and legal. Unless you are a professional caregiving advocate, it is unlikely you have the experience to navigate all tasks with ease. When questions exist, pick up the phone. Be confident that if you have a question, the question is important enough to be answered. Never feel that you are a bother to anyone. Ask until you understand. The only stupid questions are the questions not asked.  

6 Be persistent in fighting uphill battles

Changing rules and regulations in healthcare can be challenging. A medication approved last month may now be no longer allowed by an insurance company. A simple approval for a wheelchair may take months. A medical specialist may be booked months out. Call and follow up frequently on tasks that seem like they should be easier or quicker to accomplish. The squeaky wheel receives attention.

Keep notes. Write down the day of the call and to whom you spoke. Telephone call systems can be challenging. It seems like access to a live person rarely occurs. Put the phone on speaker and accomplish other tasks while you are being persistent in waiting for a live person for updates or answers.

7 Collect more bees with honey than vinegar

Finding anyone interested in helping may seem like a daunting task. How many times are you in a store trying to find a product and floor staff are absent? How many times have you initiated a call for a service and you were put on hold, disconnected, or had to call back? How many times were you told that someone would return your call and there was no response or follow-up. Customer service is in dire straits. Automation and self-help have replaced real people. When the help of a real person to solve a problem is needed, none exist!

Instead of becoming impatient and allowing frustration to show in your voice. Take a deep breath, count to 10, and be as sweet and kind as possible. Customer service representatives will go further to help someone who is kind and personable instead of someone who is angry.  If you don’t receive needed answers, ask to be transferred to a next level supervisor then repeat.

Take a deep breath, count to 10 and be as sweet and kind as possible. Think of the life of a customer service representative with each call likely being an unhappy customer or a complaint to be resolved. Logic tells me that it’s more pleasant to keep a nice customer on the phone as long as possible to be helpful and let the 10 other angry callers be routed to another representative.

8 Be considerate of the challenges of others

We all have days when things go wrong. This is part of life. The ability to cope with unexpected changes is a valuable skill for caregivers to learn. When things do go wrong, ask questions instead of becoming angry or blaming.

For example, if an aging parent or spouse lives in a care community, know that staffing is a challenge. Caregivers don’t show up for work or those that do don’t care. As a result of industry or internal company challenges, things go wrong.

No one is perfect—although we would all like some perfection in our lives. The best course of action is to investigate ways to improve processes so that errors do not repeat. Work with rather than against those who support care for your loved one.

9 Plan for care needs today and into the future

The unexpected is more likely to occur when we fail to plan or when we do not have a back-up plan. Caregivers become used to responding to crises, which is contrary to efforts to maintain a positive mind, start the day of with a smile, and build confidence. While adrenaline does kick in on a daily and repeated basis, eventually the caregiver’s physical and emotional state begins to wear down.

Caregivers place their own health and well-being at the bottom of the priority list. As a result, caregivers become more physically and emotionally ill than aging parents or others for whom they provide care. They fail to provide the care for themselves that they provide for others.

Crises may be avoided or lessened by planning for unexpected events. Create plans for today, emergency plans, and 12-24-36 month plans. Know the plan for a need for increased care. Know what you will do if a loved one requires in home care or must move to a care community. Have a plan for how family members will assist.

Know the wishes of your loved one in the event he or she is unable to manage their own affairs. This means consulting an attorney and completing estate planning documents like a medical and financial power of attorney, living will and will.

Be prepared. Avoid crises. Decrease anxiety and stress. Improve well-being. Everything is possible with a positive attitude and a conscientious plan.

10 Seek caregiver support

Going it alone is rarely a wise idea for caregivers. While many caregivers believe they can do it all; this is not a positive belief. Accessing help and support eases life’s challenges. Caregiving support can bring joy and introduces you to people you’re glad you met. Find support in person or on-line that fits with the needs of your situation. Caregiver support groups offer camaraderie, sharing, and confidence building.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela

 Take advantage of the caregiving support options available to you. Choose to subscribe to my monthly newsletters, access the FREE caregiving library with articles, videos, podcasts, and webinars.or join my private Facebook group. Other programming, like my book The Caregiving Trap Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes is also available.

About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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