We like to think about happy things, but sometimes as caregivers we must face harder issues. Today I want to talk with you about the things we cannot fix, and why it is important to face those difficult situations.
When we become caregivers we become fixers. If you are caring for children you fix their problems of the day, big and small. Need help with shoes? Fix that. Scrapped your knee? Fix that. Food, comfort, health–as caregivers we seek to fix every problem that comes up, needs we can answer. It is the same if we are caring for an older sick loved one, except now the problems are often more serious–we are often dealing with potentially life threatening illnesses.
The life of a caregiver can be a very difficult, but rewarding. In what we do we fulfill real needs, resolve serious problems, and greatly improve the lives of others. Caregiving is important. Fixing the problems of those in our care is important. As caregivers we become very good at fixing those problems, and we want to fix every problem.
But we cannot fix every problem. There are some broken things we cannot fix, and that is important to remember.
A huge danger for caregivers is the trap of trying to fix everything for the person in our care. We can’t fix everything for other people, and it is not healthy for us to try. If you try to fix the personality of the person in your care, or fix their life choices, you will fail. Trying to fix those things will exhaust you, it will destroy you.
As a caregiver we cannot fix the attitude or perspective of the person in our care. We can model good behavior and good choices, but can’t force them to make good choices. This is incredibly difficult to accept as a caregiver, especially when we see the choices and attitudes of those in our care are incredibly self-destructive. We are trying to care for someone, we want them to have the best, and they are actively ruining their lives.
What are we to do?
Each of us as caregivers must recognize our limits. Some things we cannot fix. Some things are not our place to fix. That doesn’t mean we have to pretend that bad choices are good, or fake approval for bad decisions. But sometimes it does mean recognizing “It is your life, and you will live it your way regardless of what I want for you.” Sometimes being a caregiver means being with someone in their brokenness, not trying to fix them. Patience, love, and forgiveness are often needed for many things we cannot make better.
Then there are the hard times when we must walk away. If someone in our care is making utterly self-destructive choices which in effect are a complete repudiation of the care we are giving we sometimes must give tough love. As caregivers we are not required to enable our loved ones in their self-destructive behaviour. The hardest thing a caregiver can do is say, “No, I will not join you in walking down that path of your self-destruction. I am hear to help you, to care for you, not to participate in your self-inflicted ruin. I will be here if you decide to come back, but I will not go to that place with you.”
That can feel like failure for a caregiver, but as caregivers we cannot save someone from themselves. If we try we simply end up as broken as the person we were trying to fix. There are things we cannot fix, and we must recognize them. Then as caregivers the best thing we can do in those unfixable places is take a stand for what is right and best. Even if that person who needs care does not accept it, we are still doing the most loving thing we can for them.