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Posted: January 06, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

Making -- and Keeping -- Your New Year's Caregiving Resolutions

Bill Andrew

Have you made your New Year's resolutions? If so, have you made your Spousal Caregiving New Year's resolutions? In my case, my New Year's resolutions are the same as my spousal caregiving resolutions. The reason: my personal life is wrapped up in my 24/7 caregiving requirements for my wife, Carol, who has late stage Alzheimer's disease.

If you have not yet made your spousal caregiver resolutions, it is not too late -- the year has just started. This column will provide you with some suggestions for making those spousal caregiving resolutions. I will also share the spousal caregiver resolutions I have made for this year.

Chances are that, at many times in your life, you have made New Year's resolutions -- and then broken some, if not all of them, before the end of January (sometimes much earlier!). I know that I have. But it is never too late to try. And especially for caregivers, each day is a new day to resolve to make life as pleasant as possible for our loved ones. This year, especially for you as a spousal caregiver, let us try to stop the cycle of resolving to make changes in our lives -- but then not following through. Consider the following 10 tips:

  1. Be realistic. The surest way to fall short of your objectives is to make those objectives too difficult to attain or, in fact, unattainable. Write them down for reference.

  1. Plan ahead. You should not have waited to make your resolutions on New Year's Eve. But even now, it is not too late to plan for the rest of 2005. Consider each resolution very carefully over a period of a week or so -- then make your firm resolutions.

  1. Outline your plan. Decide just how you will overcome temptations to break each resolution. Perhaps sharing with a support group can help you to keep those spousal caregiving resolutions.

  1. Make a "pros" and "cons" list for each resolution. Set up a log with a separate page for each resolution listing the pros and cons for keeping each resolution (yes, there are cons). Refer to this list whenever you need help in keeping your resolution. Also list those occasions when you have failed and what you are doing about renewing those resolutions.

  1. Talk about your resolutions. Don't keep your resolutions a big dark secret in the recesses of your soul. Share them with your loved one, your family, your friends, your support group. After all, what you are doing is resolving to provide better care for your loved one -- and isn't that what spousal caregiving is all about?

  1. Reward yourself. Celebrate your successes by treating yourself to something that you enjoy -- perhaps a special outing by yourself or with your loved one.

  1. Track your progress. Keep track of each small success and each dismal failure (both are notable) in the log suggested above. Small successes will make it easier to accomplish your resolution objectives and will also help to keep you motivated. Dismal failures can be turned into small successes by trying again -- and again, if necessary.

  1. Don't get frustrated. Obsessing over an occasional slip will not help you to achieve your overall objectives. Do the best that you can -- one day at a time.

  1. Stick to your resolutions. Experts say that it takes about 21 days for any new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of our personality.

  1. Keep trying. If your resolutions have not been achieved by the end of February, don't despair. Start over again! There is no reason that you can not make a "New Year's Resolution" any time of the year -- again, for your loved one.

Both my personal and caregiver New Year's resolutions come from something that I read on one of the many family caregiver websites:

  1. I resolve to take better care of myself.

  2. I resolve to ask for help when needed.

  3. I resolve to accept help when offered.

  4. I resolve to not be afraid to ask questions.

  5. I resolve to forgive myself for not being more patient with Carol (here you can insert your own reason).

  6. I resolve to forgive my loved one, Carol, for not responding like I would like her to (here, too, you can insert your own reason).

  7. I resolve to accept my loved one, Carol, as she is.

  8. I resolve to seek out and use respite care services when I need a break.

  9. I resolve to seek out and attend support groups for my loved one's illness.

  10. I resolve to learn everything I can about my loved one's illness so that I can be a better spousal caregiver.

The difference between good intentions (resolutions) and failed intentions (broken resolutions) comes down to one thing: the recognition that self-change is one of the most difficult things that we can do. Between us, as we are now and us in the image of our future self, lay the great inhibitor -- our ingrained habits! It's not that change is impossible but that it isn't likely to last very long unless our resolutions are fortified with lesson plans for implementation as described above. We have to detail exactly how we are going to achieve these resolutions. We have to make our intentions (resolutions) manageable by detailing the specific steps that will carry us to our objectives -- becoming a better caregiver for our spouses.

If you would like to share your New Year's spousal caregiver resolutions with our readers, drop me an e-mail message at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.

WORDS TO CARE BY:

"We will continue to fulfill the vows we have made --

keep your vows, carry out your resolutions."

(Jeremiah 44:25)


Bill Andrew identifies himself as a former “nutritionally-empowered Alzheimer’s caregiver” who attributes the slow-down in progression of Alzheimer’s disease in his wife, Carol – and the growth of his own personal emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual capability and strength to provide quality 24/7 care for her in their own home – to the targeted nutritional supplements they both took on a daily basis. Carol went to her Heavenly reward on June 9, 2008 – Bill continues on to advocate for family caregivers. Contact Bill with your caregiving questions and comments via email at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.

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