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Why Do You Need Resiliency?

Margery Pabst Steinmetz - December 31, 2018 10:46 AM

Happy New Year!!!  As we embark on 2019, I thought it useful to zero in on a skill that can make all the difference in our caregiving success, so please read on.

I am often asked what are the most important skills for caregivers to possess and develop.  Often the question, “What’s the number 1 skill for caregivers?” is posed. While answering these questions can be dangerous given the millions of differences in the caregiving experience, here’s my answer using personal observations over the last decade.  Even though my data base is admittedly narrow, my personal caregiving experiences point to the ABILITY TO DEVELOP and USE RESILIENCY.

Let me begin my thoughts with a metaphor.  As I sit here writing on my iPad, the most noticeable physical characteristics are my fingers displaying the typical joint inflammation of a person my age.  Joint inflammation is particularly prominent on the second and third fingers on both my hands.  My doctor advises that staying agile, and finding opportunities for movement will maintain resilience and flexibility and hopefully slow arthritic damage. 

I believe maintaining resiliency is also true of our minds as well as our bodies.  As our caregiving roles change (sometimes daily or hourly), we probably should welcome change as a way to move both body and mind in order to stay resilient. 

I know this advice is not easy to follow.   My fingers and my brain hurt when I initially make them move but usually afterward, I feel better, my body is more agile and my mind more attentive.  So what’s the case for resiliency being at the top of necessary skills for caregivers?

Today, many diseases once deemed acute have become chronic and more manageable.   As more and more of us live longer and medical science discovers and creates new therapies for treating diseases that a generation ago would have spelled early death, families and caregivers now care for chronic diseases and conditions in ever larger numbers.  Chronic conditions, although mostly controllable, do have acute moments when patients require immediate medical attention.  The ability to be resilient is a caregiver’s best defense in ever changing conditions of their loved ones.  Chronic conditions can last for many years, so resiliency is a useful skill for the long haul.  Just as a care plan and schedule is established, patient needs can change, so caregiver resiliency is on call. 

Caregivers cannot be creatures of habit.  Accommodating and caring for our loved ones in ever changing conditions keep we caregivers on our toes!  

What are some ways to develop and cultivate our caregiver resiliency?

-Anticipate changes by asking your medical team what to expect both short and long term.

-Have optional plans, basically Plan A and B for medical appointments, hospital stays, menu planning, etc.

-Simplify your life by not developing a full agenda.  Leave plenty of time on your schedule to allow for changes.

-Invite and include your loved one to participate in decisions.  Including your care partner will create ownership and buy in.  Hopefully, since you are both on the same page, fewer changes in every day planning will happen.

Margery Pabst Steinmetz is eCareDiary’s caregiving expect.   She is an author, speaker and Founder of  Margery is the host of “Caregivers Speak” which airs on Tuesdays at 2PM EST.  On Tuesday, January8, Margery will interview Dr. John Guarneri on “Developing Resiliency In Day toDay Caregiving.”

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