#34 Got It! Lower the Bar on Expectations for Family Caregiving

When I wrote my book Got It! I put in a chapter titled Lower the Bar about lowering expectations of ourselves. So often we expect so much  of ourselves we are constantly disappointed because we have not achieved our goals.

I have decided it’s time to lower the bar with regard to our expectations of our aging parents. When we do, our life will become easier.

As I thought about my own parents and my husbands parents (who are now deceased) I decided that part of the issue we “children” have when we interact with our parents is we are not lowering the bar in our expectations of them.  They were our caregivers and were selfless and always available.

Now they often need our support. The relationship changes. For children, most of us in our 50s and 60s, it becomes a time when we sometimes  feel helpless and hopeless.

We don’t want to take away their dignity and yet in some cases we must make difficult and unpopular decisions. We don’t want to see them struggle and yet sometimes they must. We don’t want to see them slowing down, and yet that is a natural part of aging. Sometimes our parents say and do things that embarrass us.

I say it’s time we lower the bar with regard to our expectations. When I think about the way I felt at 40 and now as I near 60, I’ve slowed down.  Add 20 or 30 years and I expect I’ll be checking my door lock three or four times, repeating stories and digging through my pruse, for what seems likes hours, to find the correct change.

When at a restaurant I will most likely say something inappropriate in a loud voice and take my time choosing from the menu.  My kids might say I do it now! So, as a caregiver, we have to lower our expectations.

Yes our relationship changes, yes things take more time, yes we wish things were different – I know my parents wish things were different now too! So now  I give myself a stern talking to and say good enough is good enough.

We will do one errand instead of three. We can take our time at a restaurant and when I look around I see that no one else seems upset that there is loud talk or the odd comment that seems a little off. It’s obviously my issue.

So instead of expecting things to get better or go back to the way they were, I am enjoying this governor that helps me slow down too. I am learning lessons on how I want to be when I reach 80 or 90.

Once we switch our expectations to be real ,and lower the bar,  life is much less stressful.

I take time to enjoy my time with my parents and can smile at the “new” experiences I’m having. Instead of taking on volunteer work, I consider the time I spend with them my volunteer commitment.  What a lucky person I am to have such a great volunteer job. It makes it easier to say no the requests I get to help out somewhere.

I often ask myself, will it matter in 5 minutes, 5 weeks or 5 months and if it does not, I build a bridge and get over it.

What a gift I’ve been given to be able to spend this time with my parents who cared so well for me all these past years. I’m thankful for each new experience.