Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Care Partner Wednesday--Stress pt. 4

I can't stand it when people tell me to do or be something, or to not do or be something. Who are they to tell me, and if I am that thing, how am I supposed to stop?

The "Don't worry, be happy," guy drives me nuts. I am worried and I'm not happy, so stop singing.
Saying, "Be_________" (just about anything--you fill in the blank) feels like bossiness in the extreme.
It makes me grumpy.

However, I can't think of another way to say this. If it makes you grumpy, I will understand.

8. Be flexible.

When I was a young bride (I'm an old bride now) we used to joke about my I.L.T. This with a piece of note paper that contained a list of chores I hoped to accomplish in a day. At the end of the day, the more items crossed off, the better I felt. I.L.T. stood for Impressive List of Things, and it kept me on track during the day. Not a bad thing, it produced focus. The problem came when the I.L.T. became my god, and accomplishment was the only thing worthwhile in a day. The goal was to have a crossed-off list to display for my husband at the end of the day. Anything--children, phone calls, interruptions of any kind, even a friend dropping over, became a hindrance. What was a useful tool became a ball and chain. 

It took me many years to learn to be flexible. My best and dearest teachers were my friends with dementia. They showed me what mattered, and it wasn't a list of accomplished tasks.

Care partners learn whole new levels of flexibility. Here are a few of the lessons:
  •  Getting someone dressed and ready for the day can be a full day's accomplishment.
  •  Unplanned moments of clarity or fun are more valuable that a vacuumed floor. 
  •  My agenda may not be the best one. This was a tough lesson to learn, because the tasks on my list, or the mental list in my head, weren't getting accomplished. However, tomorrow or next week, I won't remember what they were, or they will need to be done again. But those few minutes we stopped to eat ice cream cones in the sun will remain with me forever, and the joy of the experience will leave an impression, if not a memory, on my loved one.
  • I can ask for help for some of the things I need to accomplish. I can, and I should.
  •  I am not defined by what I accomplish. That's a great life lesson, by the way, and one I still struggle with on occasion.

If you are a care partner, realize ta list of tasks to be accomplished can cause you great stress. Look at your day, and decide
1. what absolutely must be done
2. what needs to be done by you and where you can get help
3. what can wait until tomorrow
4. what can wait indefinitely.

Here's another thought. Start your day with prayer, and ask God to show you how to order your day. You'll be amazed how priorities fall into place.

Next week, I want to talk about maintaining a sense of humour. Hold onto your hats, folks--I have stories!

Continue the conversation: is flexibility difficult for you? What have you learned about yourself as you try to be flexible in your journey as a care partner?

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