When I was a teenager, I remember many times that my mom would tell me that I needed an “attitude adjustment.” At the time, it was hard to understand why this was such a problem, but later in life, as I began to learn about how our words and actions effect those around us, I was able to understand better.
As a caregiver, when your attitude is negative, your loved one is constantly bombarded by your words, your overall tone, and body language. Without a conscious action on your part, you could be changing your loved one’s drive to push through the bad days, and just like that, you have become a part of the problem instead of part of the answer.
I know this is tough to hear, but what you say, how you say it, and how you listen are as important as the physical tasks that you are doing. It is so easy to get wrapped up in sorting through and giving medications that you ignore or even become negative toward the one you are trying to help. Here are a few things to remember that may help keep your attitude in check.
Treat your loved one as you would want to be treated.
I get it. You may not want someone to take care of you if you are in his/her shoes, but this is the way that it has worked out for your loved one. I would bet that this situation was not something that was on his/her bucket list. Would you want to be told you are lazy when you have become completely exhausted from tying your shoes? I don’t think so. Put yourself in the same situation and think about how you would want your caregiver to react.
Give more grace than space.
Sometimes it is difficult to be around someone that is taking as much medications as your loved one is taking. There are some medications that can cause what I call extra sensitivity and sometimes just outright meanness. During the times that your loved one is having a hard time with this, it’s easy to give them too much space. It keeps you from arguing, and honestly, “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” sometimes feels good.
But your loved one needs your presence and your grace. He/She needs you to give what may not be deserved, your active presence and full love. If you pull away too much, you will create a barrier, an invisible wall. You may be thinking that this doesn’t apply to you because you actually live with the one you are caring for. That doesn’t matter because you can live in the same house (even a small house) and barely see each other. When you are actively present and showing grace, you are proving that you not only love him/her unconditionally, but you are showing that you are truly committed to him/her, no matter what. This will add a sense of security that is priceless.
Think about your body language.
Are you listening with more than just your ears? Think about what you are doing when your loved one is trying to talk to you. Are you constantly interrupting or walking away while he/she is talking? (Here is something that you may not have known: Talking becomes extremely difficult, so watching you walk away, causing the need for more volume is extremely rude.) Do you have an answer for everything before the thought has even been spoken? Are you rolling your eyes while he/she is talking? It is time to correct this. Look at your loved one when he/she is talking. Comment when it is your turn, not before, and do not try to fix something that no one can fix. It is in those situations that your only job is to listen with one goal: to understand.
Think about your words.
Words matter. If you are constantly saying things like, “You can do more. You’re just not trying.”, you should really consider that your loved one is actually hearing is, “I don’t believe you. You are just faking all of this.” Choose words that encourage. Choose to be the light in the room with your words, not the dark.
Just like when I was a teenager receiving reprimands for my attitude, I know that this is not easy to hear. I hope you will do as I eventually did; start paying attention to what you say and how you say it. If you will make a change in this area, I believe that you will see a difference in your loved one’s attitude toward you, and you may even spark a new fight for life.