Forgiveness, or the lack there of, can loom large in the life of a caregiver. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. That is rule number one for people to remember when they are working toward crafting better relationships with family members and others whom they care about. Forgiveness can have enormous benefits for the health of the person who does the forgiving. Considering that negative thinking can be disastrous to your own health, you may want to work toward the positive habit of forgiveness. Here are some people that you may need to forgive along with reasons why you should.
- Forgive yourself: Caregiving is an imprecise art. We are caring for people who, in most cases, we love or think we should love. We work hard to do the right thing, but since the right thing may differ from moment to moment, or be completely illusive under even the best circumstances, we as caregivers are left to punt. We do our best, yet guilt seems to be intrinsic to caregiving. Learning to forgive yourself for your imperfect caregiving means simply learning to forgive yourself for being human. Once you come to grips with the fact that even the most well-meaning person makes mistakes, you’ll find that you can be more relaxed. This will not only help you as a caregiver, but will also benefit your care receiver. Even the most positive caregiver will have negative thoughts at times, but simply move on. The number one person on your list of people to forgive is yourself.
- Forgive past abuse: Many people who are trying to be caregivers for their aging parents were abused emotionally, physically or both when they were children. Yet there is this feeling for many that they should still take care of their aging parents. Whether or not this is a realistic goal is a topic for another article, but overall it’s still good if you can forgive your parents for their behavior. Notice, I said forgive, I didn’t say forget. Most abusive parents were once abused themselves. That doesn’t eliminate guilt for what they did to you. However, understanding this may help you forgive them enough that you can get on with your life without continuing the cycle with your own children. Often counseling is needed to get to this place in life.
- Forgive current abuse: Yes, some adult children who were abused try to become hands-on caregivers for their aging parents even if their aging parents have continue to abuse them. Forgiving your abusive parents and then managing their care with only the kind of interaction that you can safely handle is usually the best way to handle these issues. Again, professional counseling is often helpful.
- Forgive abuse caused by a disease: People with some diseases, Alzheimer’s being one of them, can become emotionally and even physically abusive. This is particularly hard to take when the person is a beloved spouse, but it’s also difficult for the adult child. When this type of behavior is the rule, it’s usually best to place the person with the disease in a care home for the safety of the family and the relationships. Still, forgiveness is very important here. You can hate the disease but don’t hate the person. This type of abuse is not his or her fault.
- Forgive your siblings or spouse who may not help: If you have siblings and/or a spouse who won’t help, even though you’ve asked for assistance, you may feel that you have a right to resentment. However, hanging on to that resentment will hurt you much more than it will hurt them, so try your best to keep that resentment short. Work on forgiving your siblings or spouse for their inability to step up to the plate. Consider this their shortcoming. As the old saying goes, carrying resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
All of these suggestions are stripped to the basics and each could use a full article to fully explain why forgiving people who have hurt you will help you live a more satisfying life. However, using these steps as a springboard may help you get started on the road toward a more peaceful life.
Carol is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. She runs award winning websites at _ www.mindingourelders.com and_www.mindingoureldersblogs.com. On Twitter, f_ollow Carol @mindingourelder and on Facebook:_ Minding Our Elders