For family caregivers, making New Year’s resolutions doesn’t have to be the futile exercise of vowing to lose weight and then eating half a chocolate cake on January 3. It can be, as the Serenity Prayer suggests, a call for the courage to change what they can — their mindsets, for instance, when they must accept loved ones’ medical situations that they can’t change. To get inspired for the coming year, all caregivers should take time in December to think about what’s important to them about continuing to be a caregiver and how they can improve their approach to their duties. Here are some possible resolutions for 2022 to consider.
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1. “I will reflect more on the good things I do, rather than on my imperfections as a caregiver.”
We all know the cliché that we’re our own worst enemies. But many caregivers still believe that if they critique themselves harshly enough, they can vanquish their imperfections. Bearing down harder doesn’t usually improve anyone’s performance; it creates a sense of failure. It is by easing up on themselves and relaxing more in their difficult role that caregivers can bring out their best
Bringing out more of their best requires recognizing the many good things they do. Caregivers sometimes make light of all the tasks they complete each day but lie awake every night with what they didn’t get done weighing heavily on their minds. Negative bias is what the cognitive behavioral therapists call it. Or, stated differently, it is unfairly ignoring the positive. Caregivers should resolve to practice greater self-compassion and to remember each day the powerful impact of their loving care.
2. “I will spend more time cherishing supportive friends and relatives than dwelling on those who have disappointed me.”
Of course, caregivers feel betrayed when people who should be pitching in instead disappear. But if those deserters won’t change — and frequently they don’t, no matter how much family caregivers implore them — then the question arises, How do disappointed caregivers go forward filled with calm determination, not bitterness? The answer lies in focusing on being grateful for the good people who, sometimes unexpectedly, do step up to help. It could be a neighbor, fellow congregant or distant relative. It could be a miracle-working home health aide. Caregivers should resolve to embrace them this year as literal godsends.