For most people, the New Year means starting fresh. If we had a rough 2014, then we treat this the Earth’s orbit as a new start; a revolution to celebrate resolutions – you can quote me on that. For the most part, our resolutions are things we want to do better or start doing. It’s a willful change. And, if you want change, it’s probably because there’s something that you don’t think you did enough of or something you wish you could do more of. These things stem from a perceived weakness in ourselves which means what we’re really saying is “How can I avoid these weaknesses in 2015?”
If you doubt it, consider the fact that most people make a New Year’s Resolution to “work out (more).”
For caregivers, the struggle with weakness goes deeper and further than most peoples’ psyches care to go. Not only are you slaving away, sacrificing much of your own time and energy for someone else, but also that someone might be lashing out and being resentful to you. Helping a senior is not like some charities where you do a good deed anonymously, no, being a caregiver means you’re doing a good deed and many times they don’t care.
Weakness is a Strength
You can’t really avoid weakness, but you can use it to your strengths. Simply knowing your weaknesses is always a strength – except maybe in a job interview. For instance, if you have a physical weakness, like a bad knee, then you figure out how to adapt to get by; maybe you wear a knee brace, put less pressure on it, or avoid walking down inclines (if you can avoid it). The same can be done for more cognitive weaknesses as well – and being a caregiver, there are aplenty.
One of the biggest contentions family caregivers have with taking care of their seniors is their anger. Mood swings and sundowning – two of the main causes of anger in dementia-ridden seniors – can make your generosity feel detestable. It hurts. Insults hurt and especially when you’re bringing nothing but good intentions to the table. It’s a colossal misunderstanding and it’s made all the more challenging because your senior may not understand.
Many of the caregivers we talk to admit to yelling back and growing defensive. They admit they feel powerless and angry – but it’s anger born out of frustration. As a result, many want to be less angry and more understanding. Without direct action however, it’s just a wish.
So what do you do?
It’s the same as with physical weaknesses. Understand yourself, adapt, work through it. Almost anyone who has been in this situation before will tell you that the best thing to do, during an outburst, is to remain calm, state what you’re doing (BRIEFLY), and repeat. Short and simple and with a cool head. It may not diffuse their anger, but it can diffuse yours.
In situations like this, the reason we get hurt or offended is because maybe we’re thinking it. We’re thinking of how much easier it would be without these tasks and arduous chores. That breeds guilt and defensiveness, but it’s okay to feel those things because you’re still doing the best you can. So remind yourself – as much as your senior – what you’re doing in short, succinct sentences. Shut off that negativity in your head, and shut out the negativity of your elder. You can do this; you’re stronger than you think.