Setting goals has long been a New Year’s tradition. We all make plans for how we want the next 12 months to go. We all want more and/or better successes and preferred changes and less unwanted behaviors and undesirable situations. Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is – as long as you can control everything that goes on in your life and the life of the loved one you provide care for.
But what happens if we are caregiving someone whose terminal or chronic health condition precariously changes without notice? Our plans and the plans our loved ones get jumbled. The uncertainty that already exists produces more uncertainty which breeds frustration and anxiety. The results can leave us feeling hopeless and confused.
Still, goals are worth having and striving for.
There are a few things we can do as caregivers to keep our goals alive, even in the most distressful conditions:
- Remember that useful goals – dreams with a plan to support them - are realistic because they can be achieved within three to six months. Exercising to lose a lot of weight may not be possible in a short time. Start by planning to lose only a few pounds.
- The clearer the goal, the better. If the goal is to get exercise, then create a plan that specifically outlines how many days a week you will walk, bicycle, etc.
- Write about the goals. Know which goals were chosen and why. Understanding and awareness can help when the going gets tough.
- Create ways to gauge success. This is what keeps the goal alive. For example, start with a 30 minute walk and build up to 45 or 60 minute walks.
- Revise as needed. If the goal is too lofty or unrealistic, don’t be afraid to make adaptations. If walking is not a preferred activity, then find another one.
The point of goals is to give us a way to experience doing things in our lives that will improve us. This type of empowerment – sense of accomplishment – reminds us that we are still very much alive. Sometimes it also gives us something personal to look forward to. And this is especially important when we feel that someone else’s life is out of our control.
J. Dietrich Stroeh is author of Three Months: A Caregiving Journey from Heartbreak to Healing (2012 FolkHeart Press). For more information, visit www.threemonthsbook.com.