Guide your caregiving into a journey of hope

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” – Albert Einstein

That seems like such a simple quote, not much to it, but for family caregivers it can mean a lot. There can be moments, or even days, when a caregiver may feel hopeless—like nothing will ever change for the better.

Our sense of identity can get confused. “Who am I if I am no longer connected to the things that gave me purpose and joy?” Our future feels uncertain. Rather than feel hopeful, we feel hopeless. We wonder, “how long will this be my life?” The question provokes fear—it could be many years—and shame, often disguised as guilt: “My freedom requires that my family member will no longer be here.”

The feeling that we are no longer in control of our life, of our future, is distressing. Layered into those worries are the worries about our family member.

Having hope is vital to our emotional well-being, but when caregiving becomes the predominant focus of your thoughts, it can feel like your purpose, your reason for being, along with your future, has been hijacked and put on hold. Hope feels elusive. You can feel like you are a hostage to caregiving or to your family member’s choices. Your family member may not recognize the level of care provided and insist that they can get by just fine on their own.

It helps to understand what hope is and what it isn’t. Hope is not passive, wishful thinking, or optimism. Rather, hope is proactive and involves planning. Hope can be felt like an emotion and be the motivator that helps you locate the path that leads to light.

Feeling hopeful is a component of resilience, which is the ability to cope with challenges, recover quickly and grow in the process. Resilience is a crucial defense to caregiver burnout. While negative thoughts and uncomfortable emotions work to fuel a negative feedback loop, hope and resilience work together in a positive feedback loop. So, how can we feel hopeful when we are caught in the negative cycle and feel as if we have little control over our circumstances?

Look for opportunities to be kind and gentle with yourself each day. A few minutes of stillness and deep breathing can transform the moment from noise to silence and peace, the path to kindness. The brief release of external worries and stress can allow your internal calm to surface. These moments of calm and compassion are empowering. They connect us to hope and give us the confidence to continue navigating the challenges of caring for ourselves while caring for our family member.

 
 
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