Episode 77: Caregivers have the power to change someone's day
Do you understand the power you have to change a person's day? Let’s talk about the ripples we create.
My nieces came to visit me and my family this summer and one day we were hanging out by a pool. The girls sat at the edge and put their feet in. They were fascinated by the ripples they were making in the water. They played with kicking their feet fast and then slow to see how it changed the ripple pattern in the water.
I realized that whenever I see a picture or think of a scenario of ripples in the water it is usually caused by something being thrown into it. So the fact that they were experimenting with the control they had of the water drew me in. Maybe, I was fascinated by it because they are super cute girls but I think what really caught me off guard was the fact that instead of a person throwing something in the water they were physically in the water causing the ripples.
As caregivers we are physically in the water making the changes. You see, when something is thrown in the water and you happen to see the change it makes the change is usually an after effect. But when you are in the water, moving it around, actively changing the speed to adjust the ripples that spread out into the pool you are causing change on purpose.
Every decision we make has an effect on the people we care for, on the people we live with, the care our loved ones get, the relationships we have with them, and the life we get to live.
Sometimes we may feel like we were pushed into the deep end and we find ourselves thrashing, trying to keep our heads above water making it a sea of foaming waves as we struggle. Other times we may feel like we are dipping just a toe in and causing very little change at all.
No matter what, we are creating change. We are just usually too busy, too stressed out, and too tired to realize it.
There are positive and negative ways to create change.
Let’s look at the same scenario in two different ways.
If you wake up grateful to have the opportunity to be on earth with the person you care for and spend the day trying your best to make it a good day for not only them but also you, then you have the opportunity to have a positive effect on the world. Just looking at the day as an opportunity will create ways for you to bring positivity and love into your day. That can be a gift to the person you are caring for and the people you come in contact with throughout that day.
Maybe you had something delivered to the house and when you met the person at the door you simply said thank you with a smile. That could have been the only positive thing that happened to that person and they could have gone home a little bit happier because of it possibly sharing that good feeling with their family.
Or, you actually take a moment to see the person you care for and despite the pain and fear that their health brings… you see THEM and you smile and hold their hand and they feel, for at least that moment, that things can be ok. That is how you positively impact their life at that moment.
But let’s flip those two scenarios around.
What if you opened the door to accept the delivery and you don’t even look at the person. You just grab the package and slam the door. That translates to the delivery person feeling angry that you didn’t even acknowledge them and they huff back to their truck. They drive away angrily and get home in a mood and yell at someone there to let their frustrations out on them or at least retells the interaction to their family making them angry about it.
You don’t take a moment to see the person you are caring for and you spend all day busy, in the same house or even in the same room but not connected.. extremely distant because the fear and sadness created by their health challenge is overwhelming. And they lie there feeling lonely and abandoned and full of despair. Maybe they react to you angrily because of it or they withdraw because the cue you are giving them is that they are a burden.
Which scenario feels better?
Now you might say - I don’t have any control over how people react to what happens to them. That delivery driver made a choice to go home angry or my loved one made the choice to feel hurt when I was just doing everything I can to keep things in the house running for their benefit.
Sure, we all have control over how we let things affect us. That’s true. But we can also take responsibility for the change we create in the worlds we live in.
When we can bring positivity to our world and the people around us then they don’t have to work to counteract that. In fact, they might not even realize why they felt so happy after being around you but it would effortlessly be passed on just by them being a little bit happier even if they don’t know why.
However, if you bring negativity to the people around you… they would have to actively work against that affecting their day. Angry ripples in the water are strong and hard to avoid. They push you around and stir up emotions that are hard to let go of. They can ruin a person's day and it would be hard for them not to pass that negativity on to other people they come in contact with.
Sure they have the power to brush it off but they are actively trying to undo something you created.
Maybe you are saying - I don’t have the capability of doing any more than I already am and taking the time to care about how other people feel will take more energy than I have. I hear ya. This isn’t about caring about how other people feel. This is all about understanding how you can affect a person’s life. The responsibility of being a caregiver is overwhelming but it is important to note how much of an effect you have on the life of the person you care for. When they are scared you can help them find courage. When they are sad you can help them see that there is hope. When they feel lonely you can sit by their side and help them notice there are people who are rooting for them.
When you are the person taking care of someone you have a direct effect on the type of day they are going to have. Sure they may feel grumpy or find themselves having a bad day but that doesn’t mean you have to enhance that difficult emotion or make their day worse because they should just be happy that you are there. We have to remember that they are people with feelings too. Most of us are caregivers for family members because we love them in some way. The hardships that come with caregiving make it easy for us to forget that.
Maybe you are thinking…No one is nice to me or helps me so why should I be nice to anyone else? That’s just riding that big wave of negativity and fueling it so it can just break through other people’s lives like a tsunami. When we are negative because we feel the world is against us we are making that choice. And if you ask me I think having a bad day because someone else is having a bad day is offensive. Sure it’s easy to let it happen and I’m not saying it doesn’t happen to me but if you think about it… you’re letting them dictate how your day will go. You’re giving up your control of how you want to live that day because you’re letting their mood affect you and then turning around and passing it on to the people you care for.
Here’s a secret… caregivers who seem to be enjoying their lives are doing so in spite of the difficulties of caregiving. Their lives are difficult, however, they chose to find ways to enjoy living as a caregiver. It’s not either-or… it’s both and. They are working hard to find ways to laugh, enjoy their families and do things that they love while traveling far with their loved one every six months to have scans and drs visits, or taking them daily to physical therapy or changing adult diapers every two hours. They smile at you when you pass in the hospital hallway or hold the elevator open for you because they know how hard things can be without even knowing your story. Sometimes they walk into a Dr’s office full of hope and leave crying only to wake up the next day with hope because that is the only option they give themselves.
Caregivers that seem to be loving their life don’t always have good days but they rebound from those days and wake up ready to start fresh. They still feel fear and sadness and loss and they invite these feelings to come up when they show, instead of hiding and suppressing them, so they can process and move on.
They do this because they know they have a responsibility and the opportunity to be able to help someone they love. They know that their actions cause ripples in their world and they would like to do their best to do things that can bring joy to people’s lives.
As difficult as it is to be a caregiver, we have to decide what kind of lives we want to live. We have the choice to find ways to make our lives positive or allow it to be negative. I’m not saying that it’s easy but the most important choices aren’t. Choosing to find ways to love your life isn’t just about how you can bring positivity to the people around you. It’s about finding ways to love living. As soon as you help another person you instantly feel a little better. Smiling as a stranger and getting a smile back from them feels great. Making positive connections with other people enhances our lives.
Sometimes it feels like we’ve been beaten down and overwhelmed for so long that finding ways to be positive, to have fun, to enjoy the person we are taking care of is impossible. But if you feel that something needs to change because you can’t continue to live this way. If you feel that you would very much like to find ways to love your life again and still be a caregiver I know you can do it. Caregivers all do big things and this is one thing you can do. I’m here if you need a little help finding your way. Just send me a message and we’ll work together to find how to get you on the path towards loving your caregiving life.
Thanks for listening.
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