Hanging on to a positive outlook during the caretaking years was challenging. I woke up every morning promising to dwell on the positive, and by noon that vow was broken.
The literature says cultivating a positive outlook is as critical as maintaining a healthy lifestyle. According to many, this outlook includes having a
While it doesn’t matter what gives a person purpose, having one is essential. Researchers found that feeling life has meaning is associated with experiencing positive health outcomes. The article After Retirement - Then What? discusses it in great detail.
The feeling of thankfulness people have towards the world or specific individuals and a focus on what's good in their lives and for what they have.
My original purpose was to keep Dan home as long as possible. I’d pursue my goals and dreams but to a lesser degree. That plan was somewhat successful for a while. I was grateful to have him there and to work on my projects.
His needs and demands challenged that purpose over time. My sole aim became taking care of him. I was grateful for the nuggets of good in the day and that he was with me.
When Dan lost his job, he lost his purpose, which affected his desire to live. In his lucid moments, he was grateful for my help.
At The Memory Care Facility
When Dan was at the memory care facility, my purpose was twofold. I wanted to advocate for him but didn’t do as much as I wishes - the pandemic played a major role, and my expectations may have been too high. I also began building a new life - on my own for the first time.
I was grateful that professionals cared for him and that he was safe. I could visit occasionally and talk to him every few days.
His purpose was to go home, but he no longer had the capacity for gratefulness.
My purpose includes
cultivating new hobbies like art and gardening
being there for my family
sharing my story with others
helping where I can
I moved to a new apartment, bought a smaller car, and found new interests, like writing a newsletter. Life continues. Yet, it goes on with an underlying sadness that may never disappear.
I am very grateful that he no longer has to live such a debilitating life and that my family supports me.
So, it is easier to maintain a positive outlook now – at least most days. It’s been two years - I’m managing, healthy, and fortunate.
I would have the same purpose and gratitude but realize that maintaining a positive outlook is more challenging than I thought.
Guideline 3 will discuss building resiliency, resourcefulness, and willingness.
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You have come such a long way, Janice. I can see your progress in only the few months I have been reading Aging Well News. It is wonderful to watch you grow, to find your feet, to see you reach out and create gifts for us all. You should be very proud of yourself. I am proud of you!
I recently found your substack and I find it to be inspiring and nourishing! I am almost half your age but can relate to your struggle with caregiving. When I was in my teens and early 20s, I became my mother's guardian when she developed a degenerative disease. To say that it was a stressful experience is a huge understatement. I certainly wish that I had something like your writing around at the time to help me keep the focus on the positive.
I think you are probably an inspiration to a lot of people and I thank you for sharing your experiences with the community of substack. Looking forward to reading more from you!