Acceptance

How can I accept the role I have been given or have taken on – care-giver. I never wanted that role, I don’t want it now, and I resent having to put my life on hold to take care of someone else. Yes, there are many positives: we are healthy, he is fairly functional, our family is close, and we have a nice home. Then is it just me feeling sorry for myself? Maybe! So how do I change my outlook and become more accepting? Let’s look at what Ali did.

Ali is an active, healthy, 80-year-old woman who plans to live a long healthy life and be as active as possible. However, her husband, James, has become quite lazy, forgetful, and unmotivated recently.  She offered to volunteer at the animal shelter with him, she made plans to take little trips such as going to the mall, and suggested things he could do on the computer; but he rejects most of her ideas. His recent wellness check showed that he was healthy but showing symptoms of early stage dementia.

Things had to change! While she loved James dearly, she needed more. She knew there were three steps involved in making change: conducting an honest assessment of what she can and can’t do, accept what is true now, and create the life she wants given her circumstances.

In making an honest assessment of her current situation, Ali acknowledged that:

  • she and James are 80 years old - they do get tired more easily
  • she wants to do more with her life and he doesn't
  • she resents his attitude and his unwillingness to try
  • her attempts to include James have not worked
  • she wants him – their life - to be the way he was – but that won’t happen

The next step was to accept this reality - which was very difficult for Ali. It wasn’t until she realized that “to accept” could mean to acknowledge current reality without liking, wanting, or approving of it that she was more able to acknowledge she can’t fix James, but she can manage her actions and feelings. She knew their life will never be as it was, but it still had good moments. So, her new goal was to maintain a positive outlook as she balanced their wants and needs.

Her plan for achieving that goal included five steps. The first step was to choose thoughts and actions that supported her. The second step was to acknowledge there were limitations and to focus on what she could do rather than what she couldn’t do.  She also reminded herself daily of the good in her life. The fourth step was to make healthy lifestyle choices for herself and for James as much as possible. Finally, she developed a strong support system.

This seemed like a manageable plan for Ali. She decided to move in that direction for the next six weeks and then re-evaluate whether or not her outlook had improved. What advice might you give to Ali?

 

Frustration

Being a care-giver is a difficult role. The advent of the coronavirus has increased the demands, the discouragement, and the frustration enormously.

If you have been reading this blog, you know that my husband’s memory declined dramatically after having surgery three years ago. Prior to that he held a full-time job, we went places together, and shared chores. We were a team. Now, I am living his life for him as well as managing the household duties and trying not to lose myself in the process. His long- and short-term memory are non-existent. What he sees in the moment is his reality. He doesn’t remember that I live and sleep with him, when in fact. I have lived and slept with him for the past 61 years. Now, he can’t really go anywhere, his routines are upset, he doesn’t understand about the virus, and he can have no company.

Yet, I am fortunate, he is fairly functional, I have family support, we are physically healthy, he as at home and sometimes very loving. And, yes, they say “don’t take it personally” and “it’s the disease,” but that does not free me from dealing with the minute to minute demands, responsibilities, and mounting frustrations.

So, I keep wondering what I can do to better deal with what the frustration. I tried many things such as writing them down and out of my mind, focusing on the positive side of the situation, being thankful for what I have, keeping busy, and “letting go and letting God.”  I also practice mindfulness and exercise daily. It was interesting that when I began writing this article the topic was “fury”, then it changed to “anger,” then “frustration,” and finally what came to mind was “acceptance.”

Maybe, I answered my own question. I may not want to be a care-giver, I may not like his memory loss, I may be frustrated with his repeated questions and comments but . . . Acceptance is a choice! So, maybe I “should” choose to accept the situation and take care of myself as best I can. What might you suggest?

The Coronovirus and the care-giver

As caregivers or care-providers, the challenge is quite difficult. With the pandemic and the restrictions, the challenge is even greater. How are you taking care of yourself?I consider myself fortunate. On the plus side, my husband, who has dementia, lives at home, we are physically healthy, and I have a great support system.  On the downside, we live in an apartment, he is childlike and I live his life for him basically, I do 3/4s of the work and must monitor everything he does, we can’t go anywhere, his support system can’t visit, and he has nothing to do. He doesn’t understand about the virus or the shelter in place concept; so, he asks the same questions over and over again. My question is how do I, how do we help ourselves during this time?  Ideas that I thought of are:

  • pray or contact my higher power, whatever that means to each of us.
  • practice mindfulness, as best I can to not dwell on the past or worry about the future but just focus on the minute.
  • find the beauty in the day – the trees, the spring flowers, the laughter of a small child, or a funny picture on Facebook.
  • be compassionate with myself, knowing that I do the best I can during this overwhelming situation.
  • choose to believe that this will pass rather than dwell on the obvious strains.
  • ask what is the one thing I can do for myself right now, however small that may be, and do it.
  • connect with family and friends, send pictures, do FaceTime, or call, as much as possible.
  • write down my worries and frustrations on a piece of paper and throw the paper away. Somehow that gets them out of my mind and then I am able to think of more common sense possibilities.

What ideas do you have?