Can You Be Successful in Your Caregiving Role?

I believe it’s important to encourage family caregivers to recognize and celebrate their successes as a caregiver. I often hear from family caregivers: How can I be successful if every decision I make seems to make my relative absolutely miserable?

I’m reminded of conversation many years ago with Mirca Liberti, co-founder of Children of Aging Parents, Levittown, Pa.. During our discussion, Mirca made, what I thought to be, a startling statement: Our aging relatives will never be happy.

I have to admit, I was taken back by that statement. But then she went on to explain.

Our aging relatives, she said, have known tremendous losses. They have watched many friends and family members die. They have experienced incredible physical losses, both in part to the aging process and as a result of illness or disease. They must now rely on others to perform duties and chores they had once done: grocery shopping, driving, cooking. We can only guess at the pain of these losses.

Sometimes, family caregivers can be wonderful targets for our care recipients. Care recipients need to express their own frustration and often take it out on the very person who helps them. Help from others is a constant reminder of all that they have lost and all that they will never regain.

More importantly, perhaps what makes you a successful caregiver–finding a good nursing home, or taking a regular vacation–will make your care recipient really unhappy. They took care of you–why can’t you take care of them? Why do they have to go to a nursing home? Or, they can’t take a vacation–why should you? They can’t have fun–why should you?

A care recipient’s unhappiness, depression and anger can dampen your caregiving successes. As you try to maintain a positive attitude, keep this in mind: As a caregiver for an aging relative, you are responsible for ensuring your care recipient is safe and well-cared for. You are also responsible for your own happiness. You can not make any one else happy. It’s impossible. Trying to make someone else happy will only make you miserable.

You, after all, doing the best you can. And, that’s why you are successful.

What do you think? Was Mirca correct? And, how do you view your success as a family caregiver?

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