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Perceptions in Caregiving


Particularly in the world of caregiving, I am firmly yet gently advising never to take anything personally. Whether our hurt feelings result from something our loved one said or did or something that any one of the players in our day said or did, i.e., family, friends, doctors, staff, co-workers, we must remain vigilant in knowing that other people’s perceptions are just that, other people’s perception.

One of my favorite books is by Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements.” This is the second Agreement.

Mr. Ruiz says, “Nothing other’s do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

Although he speaks of Life in general, his words give even more validation and reason to not take anything personally in our world of caregiving.

For me, caregiving amplifies this lesson among many other tough life lessons I would have otherwise learned under different circumstances over a more extended period of time, maybe even a lifetime.

Consider another clear example of someone who is undiagnosed bi-polar, or suicidal, aggressively autistic, or mentally challenged, or has Asperger’s. Wouldn’t it be a bit absurd to take their negative behavior towards us personally? Maybe we have crossed paths with someone who just lost a child or just lost their job. Or perhaps someone doesn’t have such extreme scenarios, and they are just having a tough time or a rough day.

Any number of these scenarios can cause others to do or say things that may be hurtful. Just remember it is where THEY are at, where THEY are coming from, not where WE are at or something that WE have done TO them.

Learn to separate yourself emotionally from their perspective and world, because it is their perspective and world.

My Mother’s Alzheimer’s not only taught me how to understand this concept but also how to better navigate the dynamics of other family members, or a doctor’s lousy bedside manner, or an insurance or bank agent having a bad day, or opinionated friends. I make it a point to keep in mind I did not cause their grief therefore I can’t take it personally.

Easier said than done, I know. Have I mastered this? Hell no. Am I a highly evolved person unaffected by hurtful words or actions? Of course not. But I’m better at it because of caregiving than I would have been otherwise.

Try and remember this Agreement. Remember it is about their dementia, their perception, attitude and situation from this disease. You did nothing to cause their hurtful words or actions, so take comfort in this truth of Don Miguel Ruiz’ words of wisdom in today’s quote.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by caregiving, joining a support group may be helpful for you. Click here for resources on support groups.

Sign up and learn more about The Community Foundation’s virtual support group for family caregivers.

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By Vic Railton