Knowing Better, Doing Better
I'm just gonna come out and say it: I am far from being the perfect caregiver. I make mistakes and fall short all the time but guess what? It is OK. Yes. Full stop and that is on period because it is actually ok to make mistakes.
Making caregiver mistakes helps us to acknowledge the opportunity to learn how to take extra care allowing ourselves the space to extend grace and to grow.
Wiggle your big toe
Growth is not always comfortable. In fact, it's usually not. When I started out as a caregiver to my mom, I had a lot to learn. But as I continued to build my skills as a caregiver, I soon learned that it is during my biggest challenges that I grow the most. I mean, I had a full-on growth spurt during my first year as mom's caregiver.
I moved my mom over to my house right after the diagnosis and I was convinced that we would live in bliss just as soon as I got a plan and routine in order. You see, my mom was incredibly depressed after the prognosis. My plan was to will her out of this state of depression. It was a real "wiggle your big toe" kind of moment. Do you remember that scene from the first Kill Bill movie with Uma Thurman?
A purpose filled life
As humans, we have an innate desire to fulfill a purpose. We want to be useful. During the time of my mom's diagnosis, she had quickly given up her career as a nurse and nursing was a part of her DNA. It was her identity to care for others, so the absence of it was devastating.
I walked to Staples and purchased a wall calendar, some markers, and other supplies, I decided to create a semi-work environment for my mom. Uh, no I had not shared my plans with her about how I would help her to succeed in this new purpose-filled life. I simply told her what was going to happen but boy oh boy did she let me know what a big mistake that was. But now I know better so... I do better!
Now, let's get these other piggies wiggling
I talk with my mom and not just declare things to her. I intentionally keep our communication open because in my opinion, taking it away is denying her dignity as an adult. And she is a whole adult!
Instead of declaring how the day will go down, I suggest and participate with her in the activities for the day. These activities all center around projects and tasks that she enjoys such as making jewelry or folding clothes. Yes, the activities may be menial to some but for my mom, it is the bee's knees and I let her rock out! She can literally sit for hours and be fully entertained which is such a joyful sight to witness.
Caregiver mistakes happen
And so yes I have messed up countless times as a caregiver, but I will also say this: I don't regret the mistakes I have made. And I have made Plenty, with a capital 'P' but these caregiver mistakes make me a better, stronger, and more mindful caregiver. Asking the questions: What did I do right? What could have been better? What was the cause of the mistake and how can I avoid it next time? Are all ways I have learned to manage my mistakes and grow from them.
We only have one life to live, and erasers are not included, so let's all pledge to love our imperfectness, shall we? Tell us what challenges are helping you to grow and do better in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
Interested in more on progression and support through Alzheimer's? Check out Alzheimer's Progression: Support Through the Stages.
Which, if any, of the following most often trigger agitation in your loved one living with Alzheimer's disease?