I once heard ‘…..if you don’t like how the story is written, rewrite it.” Wouldn’t that be a gift for a family caregiver? The ability to re-write how you responded to a situation? Forgot about an appointment? Dropped your loved one’s last bottle of liquid medication on the floor…..in the middle of the night?
Mistakes happen to all of us, and as family caregivers, those can feel so overwhelming. Your life is already full, chaotic at times and then something goes sideways, and it feels as though the earth just came off its axis. I can’t tell you how many times that happened to me and how frustrated I would get.
Then one day, I threw my hands up and walked over to the park. It was in the quiet that I realized there was a way to re-write the story. No magic wand, no eraser but I realized I had to figure out a way to revise my actions and reactions. Though you can’t go back and reenact moments, I found that changing the way I perceived and responded was something that I could.
Your loved one is facing a difficult situation and may well be full of fear, frustration, and doubt. You are in a position that there was never training for and may well be full of fear, frustration, and doubt. It’s a chemistry experiment waiting to explode. You are bound to do things wrong, and you and your loved one are bound to run into miscommunication at times.
This is where 'the power of the pause' comes in to play. When you find yourself getting ready to react, take a deep breath. Pull back into your body and release the angst before you speak or react whether it’s to yourself or your loved one.
If it is communication that’s gone awry repeat what you’ve heard back to your loved one to be sure you understood what they meant. I’ve always found; “What I heard you say was ________. Is that correct?"
I’ve also learned (still learning) that speaking your truth is powerful for everyone. I don’t mean blurting out “you're driving me crazy…..” or “I can’t believe what I’ve done!” but I do mean saying how you feel and acknowledging what works best for you can make all of the difference. Yes, you are making time and allocations for your loved one, but if you don’t set up boundaries that help you too, that’s where the angst can creep in. Here’s an example: “Mom, I need your help. I have a busy week and need to put a shopping list together today to plan meals out for us. Having your input would be helpful because I want to be sure I get what you’d like so I don't assume anything. Can we take a few minutes and sit down with me to go over it?”
Communication is paramount. Period. No if’s and’s or but’s finding the way to communicate with your loved one and yourself is a huge part of your caregiving journey. Don Miguel Ruiz in his book The Four Agreements had it right when he said:
1. Be impeccable with your word (speak with integrity; say only what you mean);
2. Don’t take anything personally (nothing others do is because of you);
3. Don’t make assumptions (find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want);
4. Always do your best (and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret).