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Managing with uncertainty

By Donna Thomson

Sometimes, it may seem like professionals or other (more experienced) caregivers have all the answers and don’t have to question their decisions. But as carers, our working conditions at home are unpredictable and uncertain. The health of a loved one may change from day to day and disease progresses differently for every person with a diagnosis.

Recently I had a conversation with our GP. “Why do you take all the complex patients?” I asked. “I’ve heard you advocating for frail seniors who have no one and when other GPs turned our family down because our son is too complex, you said YES. Why do you say yes when others say no?” He shrugged. “I’m OK with uncertainty, I guess.” I could have hugged him.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that conversation and my own feelings about uncertainty. To be honest, I hate it. In the driver’s seat is where I want to be and, if others are driving, I want them to handle the wheel my way. In caregiving, we want to be in control, especially when talking long-term care, where care is given and received continually over time. I’m talking about the voice in my caregiving head that says, “This is the way the care must be done.”

I am guilty. I admit it—I have suffered the anxiety of being a caregiving perfectionist trying to take strict command and morph the uncontrollable in the midst of my son’s and my mom’s volatile health-care needs. It didn’t work.  

I’ve learned the hard way that letting go and making peace with uncertainty is the key to feeling relaxed, even happy. It doesn’t mean giving up excellence in caregiving, but it does mean accepting these random and unknown elements.

Yes, I still make meticulous plans and watch my loved ones very, very carefully. But I can not know the future and whatever I think is best may turn out to be wrong. I can only do my best and my best is enough.

My shoulders are down and I can smile, confident that I am imperfect.

Donna Thomson is an author and McMaster Continuing Education’s “Caregiving Essentials” subject matter expert and instructor. Excerpted  from McMaster University Continuing Education: Mcmastercce.ca.

Photo: William Furtunato

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