Patience. The concept challenges me so much that I had to buy a book to understand it.
The Great Depression humorist, Arnold Glasow is quoted saying, “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”
Oh, my long departed friend, you are so correct.
The same is true when working with an adult parent who has suffered a life-, and brain-altering, illness or injury. The nuances of patience that being a caregiver, and advocate, requires is staggering.
Without warning, many of us go from being the adult child to being the child parent of our parents.
Every day, I am in awe of the patience that nurses, aides, therapists and other healthcare professionals have for working with patients who have physical, mental and emotional challenges.
What I noticed, as my father takes each step towards greater strength and independence, is that, as he gains physical strength, mental understanding doesn’t always keep pace.
So, I find myself in a situation where I’ve got a pretty big guy with the strength to do more of what he wants. And, sometimes, that want is the complete opposite of what’s safe or in his best interest (or what I want him to do).
While I can slow down and take 90 minutes to help him with his dinner, and I can spend 30 minutes playing an iPad game that a toddler could blow through in 10 minutes, I struggle with patience when it comes to communication.
Although I know that my dad has new challenges, I’m still expecting more of the “old” dad. The man who flew airplanes, ran a backhoe, designed and built an office building, and was an air traffic controller in the Air Force.
The book that I bought is called “The Power of Patience“. It’s an ironic title because when I need patience most is just the time when I feel powerless. I’ve gotten to the point where my little book, by M.J. Ryan, has become a touchstone (or, better yet, worry stone) that I carry in my purse like a first aid kit.
Here are the best gems that have helped me in these trying days of balancing being supportive daughter, dutiful caregiver and tough overseer:
1. Patience is a decision. It doesn’t feel like it, but we are reminded that “patience is a decision we make, a choice we take, again and again. And the more we recognize patience as a decision, the more we are free to make it.” When I can make the teeniest of spaces between a problem and myself, I can insert a seed for patience to grow. I can’t make a decision if I’m on auto-pilot. The good ‘ole wisdom to count to 10 has real value in turning patience from a character trait and into a proactive choice I make for myself.
2. Patience is a tool to avoid anger. My book companion reminds me that there is a very short path from irritation to anger and that patience is the off ramp to a more serene destination. For a type “A” person like myself, patience takes effort at times. And, when working off of a serious lack of sleep and additional stressors, my patience power is waning. The author points us to a better direction with patience. “The more patience we have, the less irritation, anger and rage we’ll experience.” For me, the trigger to be acutely aware of is when irritation strikes like a match. Patience is the way to keep the match from lighting a fire and wasting our precious energy on anger.
3. Impatience is evidence of fear. Whew…this one hits deep. When we feel impatience, we are invited to stop and as, “Hey, what are you so afraid of?” With my dad, the impatience I feel when he calls me on a Sunday at 6:15 am to tell me to pick him up and “get me outta here” IS really fear. I’m afraid that this is the type of conversations my dad and I will continue to have. My fear is that he won’t improve enough to have fully, rational and logical discussions around big topics that loom on the horizon of eldercare.
Whether you are on the care-giving or care-receiving end of patience, it’s critical to one’s health. Anger, powerlessness and fear are three killer emotions that can erode confidence, relationships and our ability to think and reason clearly.
What are your tips for finding patience in the face of your illness or the illness of someone you love? What triggers your impatience? And, what techniques do you use to regain your “center”? Join us and share your ideas.