Resilience: The successful caregiver’s secret weapon
24 Nov 2014
By: Lee Nyberg
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Darwin was talking about an animal’s resilience. In a recent talk on caregiving, Dr. Julie Masters, head of the University of Nebraska’s Department of Gerontology, summed up all the caregiving advice I’d ever received into a single concept: resilience.
Resilience is a combination of confidence, humility, hopefulness, positivity, adaptability, self-control, and problem solving ability. Sound like a tall order for Superman or Wonder Woman, let alone ordinary mortals? Anyone who has raised teenagers or learned to play golf has used resilience.
You’re more resilient than you think, according to the American Psychological Association. And fortunately, you can build more resilience using the APA’s recommendations.
Maintain good relationships with friends, family and others who care about you and will offer help and support.
Approach a crisis without viewing it as an insurmountable problem. Recognize even your smallest forward movement. (Today, I spoke with someone at the Alzheimer’s Association about my husband.)
Accept change as a natural part of life. Accept what you can’t change (your loved one’s dementia) and work to change what you can (the environmental conditions that bring on sundowning).
Move toward goals with decisive action. (I bought a space heater for the bathroom so Dad’s showers are more comfortable and easier.)
Nurture a positive self-view. Acknowledge you are learning and growing in caregiving skills and problem-solving. (I understand so much more about Alzheimer’s. Mom’s behavior is not her fault, but her disease. She’s still my parent and deserves respectful treatment.)
Maintain perspective and a hopeful outlook about challenging situations. Caregiving will change over the course of your loved one’s life. Being grateful for simple things helps positivity. (Does it really matter if Mom doesn’t eat all her dinner? I am grateful I have discovered recipes for more nutritious versions of her favorites.)
Encourage an optimistic view instead of focusing on fearful thoughts. Believing good will happen in your life and visualizing what you want can keep you out of the quicksand of self-pity. (I am willing to try adult day services to get respite instead of believing Mom will be too resistant to allow me to have some time for myself.)
Care for your own mental and physical health. Resilient people know it gives them stamina and helps them handle difficulties and emotional situations. They believe getting help is okay.
Resilience is a collection of survival skills. Call on these tools in your caregiving journey. Remember back to challenging times and consider how you handled strong emotions, the value of rest when stressed, who you called for help, and how you bolstered self-confidence and strength. By bringing confidence, humility, perspective and a hopeful, positive and problem-solving oriented approach to caregiving, you will be more successful. Have a future in mind for yourself beyond caregiving and recognize the importance of taking care of your self in the present.