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How to Find the Discipline to Move Ahead
Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Denver, CO
Tuesday, February 13, 2024


How to Find the Discipline to Move Ahead

The Caring Generation® – Episode 186, February 14, 2024. Finding the discipline to move ahead from drama and trauma can be challenging in any stage of caregiving—beginning to end. Caregivers who feel stuck often lack a plan and the motivation to change. Find tips here from caregiving expert Pamela D Wilson.

Caregiving: How to Leave All of the Drama and Trauma Behind

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Caregivers feeling stuck often ask how to move ahead and leave the drama trauma behind. Finding the discipline to move ahead is one step toward the answer.
While many families experience positive caregiving situations, many others struggle due to a variety of factors. This article offers insights into imperfect family situations where caregivers are struggling to survive.
It doesn’t matter if you are:
  • New to caregiving
  • Have been a caregiver for some time and dream of an exit plan
  • Believe your caregiver journey has ended due to death (hint: caregiving is a lifelong adventure)
Caregiving is hard work. It’s easy to get in over your head and feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. Find tips here to work through the emotional drama and trauma that can be part of the life of a caring person.

Dealing With Emotional Drama and Trauma

Stress can appear unexpectedly in the way of frustration, anger, grief, worry, sleepless nights, or dread. If not dealt with, these negative emotions can move in permanently, be stored in your mind, and be relived and repeated. Eventually, the stories become larger than life and hold you back from progressing.
Finding the discipline to move ahead involves releasing the drama and trauma in a caregiver’s life. There are many situations that can be played over and over. The goal is to replace negative stories with the story you want to create.
Because of ongoing drama and trauma, caregivers often feel stuck, as if they cannot plan because there is little idea about what comes next. If you are a caregiver, you know something else—another task or request—is always looming on the horizon.
The other reason caregivers feel stuck is that they have no plan to move forward, or fear of the unknown holds them back. Creating a plan and having the discipline to move ahead can make caregivers feel guilty about prioritizing their lives and needs above others.

Being Someone Else’s Plan

When you think about it, if you are a caregiver without a plan, you respond to one crisis after another. You continually do everything for others and nothing for yourself. You, your time, and your efforts are someone else’s plan.
Mom, Dad, or the person you care for knows you’ll show up and do all of the work. They are ecstatic with the plan that uses you to make them happy and feel cared for.
The downside is that their plan may not be good for you. Especially if your mood has turned negative and because of the stress, you are now experiencing health problems. Maybe your marriage is on the rocks, or you’ve lost your job, or your children are doing poorly in school.
If this is your situation, it’s time to find the discipline to move ahead. Create a plan for yourself that eliminates or minimizes the role of caregiver from your life. Let’s look at two caregiver stories.

Making Family Decisions

In both situations, aging parents or a parent moved into the home of their adult children. In both stories, the primary caregiver is a wife who has a husband and children and is the daughter or daughter-in-law.
1 – Mom or Dad moved in and now refuses to move out to an assisted living community even though they can financially afford to do so. At the time, the decision seemed right. The assumption of the adult children was that the move would be temporary, about six months. Two years later the parents are still in the home of their children.
2 A parent was living in a nursing home. The family decided to bring Mom or Dad home because hospice care was recommended. Part of the family’s thought process involved saving money because the nursing home was expensive, but they didn’t realize the personal costs and sacrifices that would have to be made. Caregivers have been hired to provide some support, but the primary caregiver remains exhausted.
In both situations, the female caregiver—a wife, a daughter, or a daughter-in-law—is frustrated, angry, burned out, and feeling unappreciated. Even though the family made the decisions, no one else is offering to help with the care duties. All of the work falls onto the caregiver.
In this situation, what is practical? Should the primary caregiver call out to the family and say, “If you’re not going to help, I’m done?  I’m finished. You were part of the decision. It’s time for you to take over.”
Some caregivers will have the courage to speak up and the discipline to move forward. Most caregivers will hang in there and be miserable, become negative, and complain about the situation.

Looking Back

Finding the discipline to move ahead involves reviewing what happened and thinking of alternatives that could have been attempted or that still may be tried.
  • One caregiver stated that the only way out of the situation is for the parent on hospice care to die.
  • Another caregiver said that, in retrospect, it would have been better to move a parent into a care home and have the family visit and supervise care.

Regretting Decisions Made

The afterthought when adult children move aging parents into their homes is the consequence of adding a person who needs ongoing time and attention and who will do the work. How will this shift of attention affect the caregiver’s marriage, relationship with their children, and career?
It’s not until it’s too late that adult children realize they made a big mistake. There are many considerations, but instead, families jump in because of a feeling of duty or responsibility. The question not asked is WHO or what is the priority. The priority should be the marriage, the children, and then the person who needs care.

Being a Caregiver and Married

Some spouses feel stuck in similar situations if there are no children or no children nearby. Longstanding marriage patterns do not change when a person experiences a change in health.
Healthy people experience as many health problems as those who have been sick all their lives.  Diseases don’t pick and choose. One day, we’re all going to experience an accident or an illness that contributes to our death.
The response to the illness makes a difference, as does what has been done to plan for needing care. Spouses who prioritize health and being proactive during life will do the same when being diagnosed with an illness.
Other spouses with unhealthy habits or who were blamers will continue to blame others for their misfortune. Which do you want to be?
Most people go through life never thinking about unexpected health issues. The discipline to move past drama and trauma also means making a plan for yourself if you are currently a caregiver, a person with a few health issues who does not yet need care, or a person who needs care.

Caregiving is Never Really Over

If you are a caregiver, realize that just because the person you care for will eventually die, that does not mean that your caregiving days are over.
You will be a caregiver for yourself and possibly a caregiver for a spouse or a partner. So what can burned-out, stressed-out caregivers who have no plan do?
Part of the answer is to stop being someone else’s plan unless this was a plan that you were involved in creating. Finding the discipline to move ahead means being proactive in using what you have learned from caregiving and applying this to your life, your family, and your future hopes and dreams.

Shifting Away from Caregiving

Now, let’s talk about transitioning out of caregiving due to the death of the care receiver.  You gave up your life, and now that the person you cared for has died, you are floundering because you have no plan for your life
To create change, caregivers must shift their focus from caring for other people to prioritizing their lives. This can be hard, if not impossible, for caregivers who feel their life purpose is to serve other people.
Other behaviors and challenges include:
  • Seeking approval from the care receiver
  • Having low self-esteem or low self-worth
  • Living with aging parents or the care receiver
  • Being financially dependent on others
  • Lacking the initiative to make changes
The more you take care of yourself today—meaning remaining independent of anyone you care for— the easier it will be to reduce time spent in or transition OUT of caregiving when it ends.
Life experiences, including a need for approval or being reliant on other people financially or otherwise, can have a negative impact if you start out as a caregiver and then become the person who needs care.
If this is your life experience, you probably missed the importance of planning. Instead, when you need care, your plan becomes your parents’ plan of expecting other people to take care of you. Not planning is a path to lost dreams and regrets.

Being Someone Else’s Plan

Make a plan NOT to take on someone else’s problems or be the solution to their lack of planning. Make a plan for your life that includes other people to help care for aging parents. Whether these are people who must be hired or your loved one moves into a care community.
If you are in an unhappy care situation, these thoughts are where your mind spends most of its time – in a negative space. The house that is your body and mind is filled with negative or self-destructive thoughts.
What do you think happens then? Caregivers become as sick as the persons they care for. There may be no light at the end of the tunnel due to the uncertainties surrounding poor health and a need for care. Happy days may be rare.
The results of your life are the thoughts you focus on. While changing negative habits can be a challenge, the question is, what do you want out of life? What are you motivated to do? If the answer is nothing, your situation will remain the same unless you find the discipline to move ahead.

Finding Your Way to Happiness

Focusing the mind on goals fuels the power to change any situation. Focus your mind on activities or things that motivate you—maybe getting a new or different job, going back to school, spending more time with friends, or working on enjoyable hobbies.
Think of things that make you happy and fill your mind when negative thoughts or worries cross your path. Have a go-to picture in your mind and a go-to saying to get rid of the garbage that the negative mind creates. No one can do this but you.
If you are the person who needs care, you will want to engage in a similar activity. Having one or more health problems can be a downer. Your emotions may be lower than low.
Persons who need care—similar to the caregiver—benefit from changing their thoughts and actions. If you have health issues, how can you live a better life?

Drowning in Health Care

If you have health concerns, it might seem as if all you do is go to the doctor and have more and more tests. Physicians can seem like the “sales center” of a healthcare organization.
They tell you that these tests will be beneficial and sway you to take medications or have treatments because prescribing is how their job performance is measured. Remember who is in control here. It’s you.
You may be disadvantaged if you don’t ask the right questions or have someone to help you advocate. Sometimes, treatments have no positive outcomes.
Many individuals participate in chemotherapy and radiation only to die within one or two years. Why participate in treatments that make you sick when you might enjoy the little bit of time you have left?
Ask yourself, whose plan are you living? The plan of loved ones who have no idea what you are experiencing but who encourage you to participate in more treatments and tests.
If you choose not to receive treatment will family members make you feel guilty or be angry with you? Are there discussions about participating in clinical trials to help other people? How do you want to spend the time you have remaining?
Some medical recommendations make money for the hospital system or the doctor’s office but might have zero benefit for the patient. Many people undergo treatment that will not change the outcome.
Doctors can be great hope builders when, in reality, they cannot predict with 100% accuracy the outcome of a treatment. This is where you must know how you want to live your life and make your plan.

Living Your Plan

There are a lot of decisions to make. Poor health, dying, and needing care from other people can be scary topics. Amid these challenges, it takes a clear and thoughtful mind and discipline to advance with a care plan.  Have you:
  • Completed your legal needs: medical and financial power of attorney, living will, and a will.
  • Pre-paid your burial or cremation plan.
  • Put your care wishes in writing.
  • Made it clear to your family what you want and do not want for care.
  • Planned for the care of pets or disabled children who depend on you.
Planning when healthy or early diagnosed with an illness offers you more choices in the future.

Refocusing Retirement Plans

Many couples have their retirement dreams crushed when one spouse becomes sick. As the sick spouse, do you want to tie your healthy spouse to you, or do you want them to go out and enjoy life?
These are discussions to have early and often. They are also discussions to have with your aging parents so that they do not rely 100% on you to be their caregiver as you may be in a similar situation of needing care.
Caregiving can last for years. It doesn’t get easier. It gets more time-consuming and more expensive. So, if you haven’t created a retirement plan and saved money, you may not be positioned for the best life you can have near the end of your life.
There’s no time like the present to work your way out of a stressful caregiving situation and to make a plan for the rest of your life that includes you potentially needing care.

Thinking Creates Your Future

Your thoughts deliver your day today, tomorrow, and the future. Find the discipline to stop being other people’s plan. Make your plan.
As difficult as this might seem, it is possible with the right mindset. Above all, be realistic and have realistic conversations about care needs and wishes.
You may have to stand up to family members and others who want you to continue to be the caregiver because it’s easier for them. Flip the conversation and let them know it’s time to make their own plan because you are no longer their problem-solver.
Set feelings of uncertainty or guilt aside to prioritize your life. The only way to eliminate the drama and trauma of caregiving is to move on and bring more of what you want and less of what you don’t want into your life.
You do not have to be a prisoner of your mind and negative thoughts or someone else’s plan. Be your own plan. Find the discipline to move ahead.

Looking For Help Caring for Elderly Parents? Find the Information, Including Step-by-Step Processes, in Pamela’s Online Program.

©2024 Pamela D. Wilson All Rights Reserved
The post How to Find the Discipline to Move Ahead appeared first on Pamela D Wilson | The Caring Generation.

   Check Out Podcast Replays of The Caring Generation® Radio Program for Caregivers and Aging Adults HERE

Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA, is an international caregiver subject matter expert, advocate, speaker, and consultant. With more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, fiduciary, and care manager in the fields of caregiving, health, and aging, she delivers one-of-a-kind support for family caregivers and aging adults.

Pamela may be reached at +1 303-810-1816 or through her website.


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Name: Pamela Wilson
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Group: Pamela D. Wilson, Inc.
Dateline: Golden, CO United States
Direct Phone: 303-810-1816
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