Caregiving: How to Hold Onto the Good Things
The Caring Generation® – Episode 168 May 31, 2023. The act of caregiving for loved ones can seem like a never-ending job. Caregiving expert Pamela D Wilson shares thoughts about how family caregivers can hold onto the good things in life while creating more things to be happy about.
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Holding onto the good things is essential to building or maintaining a positive mindset as a caregiver or in any role in life. Creating more good in your life is possible.
Now, if you are a burned-out or exhausted caregiver, you may think there isn’t anything good about what is happening in your life. I understand that because I’ve been there. It’s easy to feel hopeless or frustrated with life.
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I’ve also been on the opposite side, where amazing things happened, and I felt blessed and grateful. So seeing both sides – the contrast between nothing good and everything good— is something to consider.
Let’s look at some scenarios that relate to holding on to the good things and creating more good in your life.
Life Circumstances Impact Everyday Life
The first scenario to consider is that individuals are affected by their life circumstances. To change whatever it is we want to change— we, no one else—have to change the circumstances.
Complaining can become a habit. Expressing dissatisfaction or blaming others reinforces feeling stuck in a less-than-ideal situation.
So, let’s look at a variety of circumstances. First, individuals have the family and culture into which they are born. Then there is the neighborhood or area where one lives that can be changed by moving away from home.
Next are the people one spends the most time with. These people may be friends or people at work. Family or workplace culture affects the way individuals respond to daily situations.
Other circumstances include exposure to social groups. Neighborhoods, friends, co-workers, employment, and culture are things individuals have some degree of control over.
Life circumstances that relate to becoming a caregiving or needing care are called social determinants of health (SDOH). SDOH is “terminology used by the healthcare system.”
Holding Onto the Good Things
The effect of social circumstances is a concept that everyone should know about so that opportunity exists to hold onto good things, one of which is good health.
It can be difficult to understand a concept, like good health, or any idea if there is a lack of experience, knowledge, or context, which is a description or the background of a situation. So, let’s look at good health.
First, think of a day when you were sick and couldn’t get out of bed for more than a day. Then think of one of your best days when you feel healthy, strong, and positive.
Which would you rather have? I suspect you’d say the healthy day. Unless diagnosed at birth with a health condition, young persons are usually healthy, strong individuals.
Some families have two, three, or four generations living in the same home or multiple houses in the same neighborhood. Family members can span from the very old, in their 90s, to newborn babies.
Families may have a range of healthy young persons to older adults with many health problems. Some families struggle financially to maintain a home, pay routine bills, have transportation to get to work, shop for groceries, or run errands for other household needs.
Life Across Different Stages
Across 100 years of family life, there may be babies, children in grade school or college, adults pursuing careers, couples having children, older adults dreaming of retirement, and grandparents helping raise grandchildren. Everyone is balancing their lives and doing their best.
But, like health, the good things are relative, depending on age, lifecycle, interests, and other factors. Think back to your teens and twenties.
What were some of the good things? Getting your first job, buying your first car, dating someone you liked?
And today, what are the good things? Maybe a job with a steady income so you can support your family. A home with enough bedrooms for your children or an extra room for a home office if you work from home.
Maybe you appreciate having a good transportation source, like owning a car or easy access to a bus or transit line so you can get to work or take the kids to school.
Relationships Can Be Some of the Really Good Things
Holding onto a good thing may be working at a relationship with a partner or spouse you are compatible with and share similar goals. On the other hand, maybe good things involve retiring, enjoying grandchildren, gardening, or playing golf.
The wrench in any of these plans is a derailment or an obstacle. Getting off track is similar to the train you hear about in the news that goes off the tracks and causes damage to people and surrounding areas.
For caregivers, derailment is usually a change in the health of a loved one. Holding onto the good things may mean remaining healthy and active instead of dependent on others for care or daily assistance.
Or if health problems are already diagnosed, then holding onto the good things may be maintaining a health condition and not having it worsen. Becoming sick is not always associated with aging.
Being healthy and active can result in unintentional or unexpected injuries. Individuals who ski may need a knee or hip replacement. Softball or baseball players may have a bad shoulder.
The Idea of Good Things Changes With Life Experience
Regardless of age or health status, anything can happen that brings up the idea of holding onto the good things. But, of course, good things also come in degrees or levels.
Let’s say you were a skier who loved blacks, bumps, and tree skiing. Today after a couple of surgeries, you’ve set limits, and the blue slopes without bumps are the really good things.
Suppose you are a young person caring for aging parents with health problems and have no comparable contrast in life. In that case, it can be challenging to understand why sick aging parents constantly complain, have a negative attitude about life, or feel hopeless.
It’s hard for a healthy person to put themselves in the position of someone who always feels terrible.
For example, suppose you are caring for a parent with dementia. In that case, you may not understand why mom or dad keeps repeating the same information repeatedly or accuses you of doing things you didn’t do.
Likewise, if mom or dad had a heart attack or a hip replacement, it can be hard to understand why they struggle to walk without getting tired or cannot do things they did before the surgery.
Contrasts and unexpected life changes can turn into negative or fear-based behaviors if not considered a learning experience.
It’s Easy to Become Stuck in Fear-Based Behaviors
Here’s a simple parable that explains this idea. A mom and her baby ducks were swimming in a lake.
One of the baby ducks got its webbed foot caught in weeds and was stuck. None of the other ducks noticed the baby duck struggling.
So they didn’t come to the rescue. Instead, they all went on their way, leaving this duck to free itself.
Finally, after several hours the baby duck freed itself from being stuck in the weeds. But after this experience, the duck preferred to remain on the land instead of swimming in the lake.
Then one day, while sitting on a hill, the duck saw a young duck get stuck in the weeds and remembered the traumatic experience of struggling and being left behind.
Rather than sit and watch, the duck, who preferred land over water, went into the lake to rescue the baby duck. After the rescue, the older and younger duck became companions.
The older duck started spending more time on the lake, realizing it was not such a scary place. Negative life experiences of any type can significantly impact making choices, believing in the ability to succeed, trusting other people, or having the confidence to solve problems.
How Negative Experiences Affect The Mind
Here are examples of how this might work. If you are a caregiver, do you have supportive siblings or other people available to help you care for aging parents or grandparents?
If you do not, and these people have refused to help you, you may hesitate to ask others for help because you believe they will say no. So being rejected causes us to reject the idea that asking others for help can succeed.
You also may believe you have to do it all as a caregiver because no one else can or will help. How do you know? You asked, and they said no—once. You never asked a second time.
The Effect of Work Culture
Is your supervisor supportive at work if you need to take time off to take Mom or Dad to the doctor? Or is taking time off work frowned upon because of the perception that people who take time off are not committed to the company?
An unsupportive supervisor, work team, or work culture may lead to a sense of not fitting into an organization’s culture. So, consideration may be given to looking for another position where a supervisor and co-workers are more supportive.
The key is ensuring that a potentially negative situation does not repeat. I’ll talk more about this in a few minutes, as changing thinking patterns is essential to create more good in life.
Are Caregivers Too Busy to Enjoy the Good Things?
Are you a caregiver frantically running from here to there? Are you constantly busy with no time for yourself? Are you reminiscing about holding on to the good things you see as parts of your previous life that have disappeared?
Many caregivers let go of dreams to finish college, work in a job where advancement is possible but requires extra effort, or marry and have children.
Because there is so much to do, not enough time, and little space to think, time is not devoted to logically thinking about the consequences of decisions. Instead, caregivers jump in and lack the experience or foresight to see the short- and long-term effects on their lives until much later.
Families do not discuss health problems and the impact of the caregiver’s role on other family members.
When parents assume their children will be caregivers without previous discussions, this can result in high-stress, high-conflict situations.
Decision-Making Without Experience Can Be Tricky
Decisions surrounding being a caregiver are rarely obvious unless prior experience exists and there is knowledge to confirm what a positive or negative outcome looks like.
When looking at past decisions, how many times has a decision been made and then more information showed up that may or may not have affected the choice? The ability to work through a decision by using various skills and having available time to consider the results are two factors in creating good things.
Using conceptual reasoning skills is a process of solving problems that require pulling experiences or knowledge from other areas of life or from people we know to help us understand and make good or better decisions.
So maybe you have a problem, and you talk to your grandparents, a teacher, a good friend, or someone else because you have no experience solving this problem. Or maybe you do research and see how other people have approached a similar problem.
The hidden challenge in doing this is placing yourself in a position of having the thing or doing the thing that you want so that you can get more of it. This may sound backward. It can take a little time to wrap your head around the idea.
The Link Between Understanding, Knowledge, and Creating Good Things
Start by thinking about all of the good things in your life. Then, make a list, and write them down.
Express gratitude daily for the smallest things—for example, food in the pantry to eat for breakfast, clean clothing to wear today, and drinking water. People all over the world struggle to have these things.
In today’s world, it can be challenging to understand why things happen. Even more difficult is understanding words or concepts that translate an idea but can’t be physically touched or held.
Here’s an example. The Bible Matthew 13:12 Quote, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
You might hear this and wonder what it means. There are many interpretations of this bible verse.
The challenge is realizing that understanding and knowledge cannot be physically touched but rather pulled into one’s experience.
One of the most straightforward translations of 13:23 is that the teacher shows up when the student is ready. And the opposite, if you think you know everything, then you probably do.
When a person is prepared and open-minded to learn and receive information—even though the new information may differ from present circumstances, beliefs, or knowledge—what happens is that more doors open. More opportunities to learn and expand experiences and knowledge are received.
On the other hand, people who are closed-minded or judgmental may be limited to these experiences. As you know, it can be difficult to change the opinion of someone who has their mind made up unless they are motivated or want to change.
So, for these people holding onto the good things may not be possible because they do not believe good exists or can exist in their life. They have lost hope, faith, or belief that life can get better.
Make Space for Good Things
It is possible to hold onto good things and create the experience of more good things in your life. For example, suppose you are a busy caregiver and want more free time.
Create small bits of free time in your day. Read a book for 30 minutes, take a walk, listen to music, call a friend.
Schedule time each day to do and experience something good. When you believe that you can create good things, and act as if they already exist in your life, blessings and happy moments will start showing up.
As a caregiver, admit that you can’t do it all. Ask for help. The process of asking will have help show up in unexpected ways in your life.
Accept responsibility to look for opportunities to make changes in areas that no longer serve you. This does not mean you are doing to abandon the person you care for.
The person you care for has to accept responsibility for their life and their circumstances. By being too helpful to others, caregivers take on significant burdens and remove the opportunity for other people to work through and plan their lives.
The Experience of Struggle May Be a Lesson
Caregivers can become resentful of other people who don’t jump in to help. But did you ever think that others are not supposed to jump in to help because there might be a lesson to learn?
Suppose you have disagreeable people in your life, the person you care for or others. In that case, you can learn how to handle conflict and respond positively to actions you might see as insulting without being egotistical or critical of others.
Walking away from a situation without having to control the outcome can be difficult. It’s the idea of turning the other cheek and giving the outcome to the universe to avoid thinking about and creating more of this thing you don’t want.
Holding onto the good things means being more insightful about actions. If you purposely hurt someone else’s feelings, what is the goal of the mean intention? Do you want others to act this way toward you?
I know – it’s hard to walk away. But learning to take the high road one step at a time will go a long way to creating more good in your life. The struggle may be the path to an appreciation of good things and experiences.
Put an End to Bad Things
Cruel behavior in society has almost become an acceptable habit. The daily news is full of inconsiderate and divisive conversations promoting one way of thinking over the other and trying to convince people that other people are bad or are out to get them.
Don’t be swayed by these types of conversations. Instead, be compassionate and try to understand the needs of other people.
The people you spend the most time with create the circumstances of your life – the good or the bad things. The old saying, as you sow so shall you reap.
Become a peacemaker to create and find more peace in your life. Be kind to others so that your actions can contribute to ending anger, hostility, or aggression.
Do your best not to overreact to the actions of others that may be impossible to understand.
Instead of focusing on feeling stressed, having too much to do, or any other habit or thing in your life that you don’t want, focus on the reasons you want to do or be the opposite.
Most of all, do your best to work through or avoid situations that place you in positions you don’t want to be or are tempting. A simple example is that you want to stop drinking. Then don’t spend time at a bar.
If you want to be healthy, get off the couch and exercise, and join hiking or activity groups. If you want friends, join social activities where you can meet people.
Change to create good in life takes effort. It may be scary or hard, but it’s worth it to see more good in your life. Most of all, don’t allow your mind to get stuck on things you see as past mistakes. See the actions for what they were and move forward.
Take accountability and free yourself from guilt by choosing to take action and to act and respond differently in future situations. So when I mentioned the earlier example of being in a workplace where you don’t feel you fit the culture, give this idea some thought.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling out of place or that you didn’t make a good choice. But before you seek a new situation, take the time to think about the choice you made and the result so that you can choose differently the next time.
Is it possible to remain in the current situation and change your behaviors or thought patterns? Again – remember that we get what we put into relationships.
Are your behaviors affecting how others react to you? If you feel you must make a choice, what measures will you use to evaluate your new choice? How is this different from the way you evaluated your current situation?
Sometimes it’s difficult to see how our thoughts and actions can contribute to a situation. Making time for thought and reflection may lead to the realization that it is us that has to change, and through this change, others will react differently to us.
So much to think about for holding onto the good things and creating more good in life.
- If you are looking for caregiver support, join an online caregiver support group. My online caregiver support group on Facebook is called the Caregiving Trap.
- Take an online caregiver course on my website.
- Watch a few hundred videos on my YouTube channel.
- Listen to over 160 podcasts of The Caring Generation.
Start today to hold onto the good things and create more good in your life.
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