Your Choices Are Not Always Just About You | Preparing Yourself Now for Long-Term Care

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We hear a lot these days about making choices and how they’re our choices to make. Our society likes the idea of us making a choice for ourselves while our friends and family do nothing but applaud our individuality.

Every day, however, caregivers are experiencing the backlash of our parents’ and loved ones’ individual lifestyle choices.

  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking
  • Poor diet and health choices
  • Drug use
  • Body altering
  • Financial choices
  • Hobbies
  • Habits & Addictions

All of these choices and more, no matter how minor or individual they may have seemed at the time, are impacting caregivers and in no small way.

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The Impact of Our Choices on Caregivers

Before you throw your hands in the air and declare that you can’t let the possibility that you might need a caregiver one day keep you from living your life, let me assure you, living consciously does not mean you have to lose your individuality.

When you become a caregiver you take on the responsibility of seeing to the health and well-being of someone else. Every addiction, every habit, every health problem now becomes a battle for the caregiver.

Why? Because it’s our job to see our loved one live the best quality of life for however long they have left.

Related Post: Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Caregiver for An Aging Parent?

Hidden Content

What Caregiving Does Not Mean

Caregiving is already a tremendous responsibility without the consequences our loved one’s choices have brought. It can be easy for us to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves so it’s important for us to first remember what being a caregiver is not.

Being a caregiver does not mean:

  • Your purpose is to keep someone from dying for as long as humanly possible. Many of our loved one’s are battling fatal disease and nothing we can do is going to prevent their death. Rather it means you are to keep someone as happy, safe, and healthy as possible at this point in their life.
  • You are now someone’s servant and required to grant every wish. It can be easy for our role as caregiver to turn into our role as a doormat for our loved ones. While some tasks are similar you are not:
    • A maid
    • A short order cook
    • A wish-granter
    • At anyone’s beck and call.
      Instead, it means we assist someone in the tasks they are no longer able to accomplish on their own.
  • You get to be a dictator. While we do everything we possibly can to help our loved one we can never force another person to be happy and live their best life. We can guide them toward their best quality of life, but we do not get to force that life upon them.
  • You no longer matter. It’s difficult not to get wrapped up in our life roles, but losing yourself in any role – whether it’s a job, being a parent, being a caregiver – is a choice we make. Do not let the roles you fulfill define who you are.

Related Post: The Simple Solution for Finding Happiness As a Family Caregiver

Why should our choices today matter?

My MIL spent her adult life making terrible choices about her diet. She still complains about being overweight but refuses to make conscious healthy eating choices.

When my husband and I moved in as her caregivers my MIL had been diagnosed with morbid obesity and Type II Diabetes. Both of these were a consequence of a lifetime of poor eating and health choices.

Not only did I fight my MIL to take her medication and check her blood sugars, I continuously battled her cravings, sneaking food, tantrums about not eating out daily, and multiple illness and ongoing health problems that were an overflow of her very unhealthy diet. For the first year we experienced:

  • monthly UTIs,
  • poor mobility,
  • extreme fall risk,
  • depression and poor mood,
  • increased confusion beyond her Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Most if not all of these health issues could have been avoided by making healthier choices in her pre-caregiving adult years.

As her caregiver, not only was I battling a lifetime habit of poor diet, but I was also navigating the very real and life-threatening consequences of these choices. Because of her Dementia and Alzheimer’s this responsibility no longer fell on my MIL’s shoulders, but were now legally and morally on mine.

This battle to get my MIL to a point where her quality of life drastically improved by me refusing to buy unhealthy foods, cooking healthy meals, regulating eating times, and insisting on proper management of her diseases made me very unpopular with my MIL.

While, we have won this battle and have her weight and diabetes in an excellent place and all but eliminating the consequential illnesses and health problems, I can’t help but wonder if all of this could have been avoided.

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Make Better Choices for You

I know it seems strange to base your choices on the possibility that you may need a caregiver at some point but think about how much better your caregiving experience as the caree will be.

My MIL has very few choices about her eating. She still fights cravings and the very real pull of emotional eating. As her caregiver, I know what the consequences will be if I allow her to overindulge or frequently splurge. It’s the fear of those consequences that keep me vigilant about her diet.

Imagine though if she had been more conscious about her eating in her adult life. I likely wouldn’t have to keep such a tight reign on her eating and diet. She would still have the freedom to make food choices even with her Dementia and Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

While there may come a time that I need a caregiver, I would like to maintain as many of my liberties and freedoms as possible for as long as possible. Making better choices today with a mindset for our longterm care gives us a greater possibility of maintaining our independence even if we should need a caregiver.

By thinking beyond the momentary pleasure, the pressure to fit in, or even emotional security our choice brings to the longterm consequences (positive or negative) we

  • stand a better chance of having more independence with our longterm care.
  • will have more choices in the long run.
  • will avoid our caregiver having to fight unnecessary battles giving us a better relationship.
  • won’t be as inclined to live out our years in anger and bitterness over the consequences our choices have inflicted.

So let’s think about the choices we are making today and the potential life-time consequences, good and bad, that they may have.

Did you like this post? What choices are you making today to enhance your long-term care in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

Empowering women to THRIVE in their multi-generational homes.

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