Caregiving Superpowers

What’s your superpower?

No, I’m serious.

What’s your superpower?

I’ll tell you about mine. I think everything is funny. That’s it. That’s my superpower.

How do I cope with tough crap? I think everything is funny. How do I deal with hard times? I think everything is funny.

That doesn’t mean I don’t take things seriously. You can take things seriously and find humor in them. And I have gotten myself into trouble because I think things are funny and others can’t see humor.

But the universe gave me this gift. And it’s how I survive.

So, caregivers, what is your superpower?

I had this conversation when I visited a caregiver support group a few years ago. I asked about their superpowers, and (once they finally processed the question) they had interesting responses.

One caregiver said her superpower was that she was able to tolerate a very messy house. Another said her superpower was the ability to believe that things were going to get better when evidence suggested otherwise. When one woman told me her superpower was that she was able to get her grocery shopping done in lightning speed to get back home to her husband with dementia, others nodded. Speedy shopping can be a superpower.

You see, caregiver superpowers aren’t about flying, reading a crystal ball, or being invisible. They are skills and attributes we have that make caregiving just a bit more tolerable.

Being able to remain flexible when dementia changes your plans.

Having the patience to answer the same question 15 times in the exact same tone of voice.

Knowing that others will judge the decisions you make but having the confidence to stand firm anyway.

The cooking skills to make a healthy meal in 20 minutes.

If you are a caregiver, you have a few superpowers. I promise. Take a sec and think about what you, as a caregiver, consider a strength.

Maybe you are stressed and frazzled. And I am guessing you might feel useless and incompetent at times. But there are aspects of caregiving where you excel. There are parts of caregiving that come easily to you.

Let’s say someday you are using your current experience and expertise to apply for a position….a position caring for someone living with dementia. Let’s say you are applying for the exact same position you have now. You know, the caregiving job for which you never asked or applied.

What would you say? What would you put in your cover letter? How would you portray yourself in an interview?

Would you mention that you have learned to communicative effectively with someone living with dementia? Are your “therapeutic fibbing” skills top-notch? Are you great at convincing someone with dementia to go to the doctor when they are resistant? Do you have a sense of perspective that allows you to roll with the punches when plans fall apart? Are you effective at assisting someone who needs help getting dressed or brushing their teeth?

Caregiving can be difficult, rewarding, stressful, joyous….and everything all at once. I am sometimes bothered that caregivers never stop to pat themselves on the back for wins. And those caregiving wins? It’s okay to realize that you are often responsible for them.

When your loved one is anxious and you de-escalate a situation, you are allowed to be proud. Perhaps it’s not a victory everyone would understand, but de-escalation of situations might be your superpower, and that’s a pretty awesome superpower.

Maybe your superpower is your knack for finding family-friendly restrooms. Or your commitment to making sure both you and your loved one have a window for a long nap in the afternoon. Perhaps your superpower is being a positive light for others residents and families when you visit the nursing home.

Whatever it is, appreciate it. You may not have picked the caregiver life, but it’s bound to highlight some of your best qualities, and you are destined to pick up new skills along the way.

You may not be thanking God and/or the universe for this tremendous opportunity for personal growth, but it is nevertheless an opportunity for growth—whether you like it or not.

And, if you see me out and about, it is likely I will be laughing. It doesn’t mean I had a good day or things are going well. In fact, I may laugh more when things are going poorly. It’s a coping thing. And I wouldn’t trade it in.

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