Caregivers May Benefit More from an Annual Intention (Instead of a Resolution)
‘Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions. Have you started making yours?
However, if you’re a caregiver I’d actually encourage you to ignore the nagging of well-meaning family members, friends, acquaintances and anyone else and instead avoid this annual tradition. Why, you may ask? Based on my own experiences over a 10-year period, caregivers have enough on their plate without adding these overarching goals to their lives. Why beat yourself over breaking a New Year’s Resolution to lose 45 pounds when you’re dealing with the daily stress of dealing with a loved one who can no longer remember where they live or who acts out at inopportune times?
That was the conclusion I came to in 2007 when I was caring for my mother, who had Alzheimer’s and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. I was juggling a job, caregiving issues with Mom, graduate school and helping my father adjust to a new apartment and a new city when New Year’s Eve rolled around. I thought long and hard about what resolution I was going to make. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have the energy to try to focus on a large resolution. However, I did feel that I would be able to maintain an intention for the year. In my mind, the intention would be a term that I wanted to focus on many areas of my life. An intention wasn’t as stringent as a resolution and I could adapt it to what I was facing.
That year, I selected an intention of “compassion.” I thought that term was really appropriate for how I wanted to live my life as well as the challenges that I anticipated I would be facing. I used this intention as a way to ground my interactions with my mother (especially when her actions were uncharacteristic of the mother that I knew and loved), my father, the nursing home staff, the health care professionals, friends, family members, and even pets. I also found that this term was a good one to use in thinking about my own self-care. Like many caregivers, I often put my needs last. And then I also had an inner voice that assured me regularly that what I was doing wasn’t good enough. Thus, I found that following my intention of “compassion” was especially important in relation to how I treated myself.
Of course, there are people who wonder if any true “progress” in life can be made by having an intention for the year. Again, based on my experience, that answer is a resounding yes. Going into 2014, I was asked by a group of friends what my New Year’s Resolution would be. I again intoned that I had too much that was going on in my life at that point for a resolution since I was still dealing with graduate school and work, as well as my dad’s emerging health issues. Therefore, I stated that my year’s intention was going to be focused on a theme of “Conclusion and Completion.” Looking back over my year-long to-do list, I feel like I’ve made great progress. What’s the list? Here goes:
- Completed and successfully defended my dissertation in order to graduate with my doctorate in 2015.
- Successfully encouraged my father to get his will and health care directives updated.
- Was able to get my mother’s will probated.
- Successfully got my father out of the locker that he had had for so many years.
- Donated the remaining 17 tubs of my mother’s fabric collection to charity. (Some friends had helped me sell the other 63 tubs of fabric in fall 2013.)
- Successfully went through several boxes of old family pictures and sent what my brother and I didn’t want to relatives.
- Gave several pieces of furniture to family members and friends who wanted them.
I have to admit that there are other things on my list for completion and conclusion that haven’t been checked off, but I still would hold that my year’s efforts were highly successful, especially in light of other things beyond my control that are going on in my world.
So with that, I want to share my intention for 2015 – Health! I plan on focusing on multiple levels of health, including physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, environmental health, etc. I’ll look forward to reporting back at this same time next year on my progress. And I hope you’ll share with me the intentions that you plan to adopt that make sense in your life.