There’s a substantial lack of caregivers in the senior housing field. In addition, this isn’t an industry people jump to get involved in.
More often than not what happens is, when a senior needs care, it’s their children to the rescue. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing more admirable than adult children taking care of their elderly parents; in fact, it’s something that should be expected of us. However, taking on the role of caregiver is stressful.
If you ask any caregiver in the field, they’ll tell you the same. Some of the people in our society with the highest levels of stress, anxiety and depression are our caregivers – and that’s coming from people who have the training and expertise, so just imagine what it’s like for the adult children who suddenly have to take on this role.
Needless to say, it’s hard – sometimes, really hard – so many wonder what they can do to alleviate some of that stress. Fortunately, we have a pretty good idea and it comes from a fairly renowned author/philosopher/leader, Eckhart Tolle.
According to Tolle, the first step to conquering stress is to simply accept it. You don’t need to like it (at first), but you need to stop fighting it.
Fighting it will only turn your emotions into resentment and that can be injurious to you and your loved one. It’ll make the task of caregiving all the more taxing because, in your head, you’ll be fighting a losing battle since it needs to be done, but you resent doing it.
Once you accept it as something you must do, then you’ll find it becomes more manageable. It changes from an internal (losing) conflict into one that can be controlled.
This may seem like a stretch at first, but Tolle goes on to illustrate that it’s not too farfetched. After you’ve accepted the task, excitement comes next. Excitement however doesn’t necessarily refer to what you’re doing, excitement is meant to represent a “future” state/emotion.
Essentially, it’s one of those ways for you to reward yourself; a “if this, then that” approach. So, if you assist your elder, then you can have a nice glass of wine and enjoy a television show.
What this does is it allows you to see past caregiving. Your elder gets his/her due assistance, and you get rewarded afterwards. The reason it needs to come after acceptance is because if you just think about what you want to do afterwards, then you’ll experience the resentment for the current task. So remember acceptance first as it will lead to excitement for after.
If you’re anything like me, then you probably read “enthusiasm” and thought, “how is that different from excitement?” Tolle addresses this by saying that enthusiasm is an active and present emotion. So, whereas excitement is interest in the future, enthusiasm happens in the present – and, again, this is where the 3-step part of this exercise is integral.
Basically, once you achieve acceptance and move on to excitement, enthusiasm is the natural progression! With caregiving, it’s never going to be easy. At times, it’ll be rewarding and you’ll have some good days, but the difficulty is that someone’s life is in your hands and anything that happens to them falls upon your shoulders.
It’s a burden and most of the people we meet are wrought with guilt – guilt for not having the years of experience of professional caregivers (that was never expected of them anyway)!
- Acceptance allows you to manage the situation (putting you in control);
- excitement allows you to look forward to what comes next;
- and enthusiasm lets you enjoy what you’re doing because you’re not fighting the situation and are looking forward to the aftermath.
Essentially, enthusiasm puts you in the present, so you can enjoy caregiving for your elder stressfree.
We’re definitely not saying this is easy or something you can accomplish overnight, but taking it one step at a time will relieve that stress – believe us!