Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lower your expectations of your family, and find good friends

I was meandering the internet looking for information on the Healthcare Reform bill and if it might have anything in it that would effect family caregivers, and that lead me to and a piece that a fellow caregiver wrote on Lowering Expectations when it comes to friends and family and the help that a caregiver can expect to get.

Caregiving is noted to be a very lonely ordeal, but I have found it is not nearly as lonely as being a care recipient.

Imagine for a moment being trapped sitting day after day with no one coming to visit you, not going anywhere... just waiting.

Now, imagine if your family promised that they will come to see you, so you wait with the expectation of them coming to see you. Only they don't. They don't even call, not even to say they will not come visit as they had promised they would.

And finally, imagine that they make the same promise each time they visit, and those visits are spread out three to six months between them. And each visit they promise to come see you more often, so you wait for them to come see you... and you wait. And depression builds as they never come to visit.

When we pause and place ourselves in the position of the care recipient it can get downright heartbreaking.

My dad is left side paralyzed and the only car we have has a broken heater and no brakes - and yet even for the family holidays it was expected by the family that he should leave his home to go visiting for the holidays - even after he said he did not want to, they refused to drive the few miles to come see him for the holidays.

And yet each time they make their promises me and him believe they really mean it, that they will come to visit him more often. We believe it when he is told someone is coming the next day to take him for a drive. And the heartbreak and loneliness endures.

Dad wants to get a better car now, with working heater and electrical, that him and I can go do the things he wants to do. So I can take him to the VFW meetings and to hang out at the other old soldier organizations he is a member of.

The article on how a fellow caregiver realized they needed to lower their expectations with their family was a much needed reminder that I should do the same with mine. Amazing, I suppose, that I have been told as much by my friends for years now, but reading about a fellow caregiver's experience seems to have reinforced the realization more than even my closest friends could, reminding me how my mother had too often expressed the need to ignore the lack of help and to just do the best we could.

It all gets back to the same old song and dance of "you can choose your friends and enemies, but not your family." My advice... find friends that make up for the shortfalls your family has in them. I knew I had when one day a friend of mine made it a point to call cross country just to talk to my dad for a few minutes on Father's Day and wish him a happy father's day. It is the unexpected things like that, from dear friends, that make up for the shortcomings of family.