However; the last few trips have been met with sub-seasonal temperatures, daily storms and fading of any skin color I had prior to my arrival. The cool weather and thunderstorms that plagued our trip caused me a great deal of frustration. Why? Because I set the entire state of Florida up to fail with my unrealistic expectations.
Right now you may be thinking, gee Sue sorry about the stinky weather on your vacation but what the H-E-double hockey sticks does this have to do with anything? I’m glad you asked!
In my 20+ years working in geriatric healthcare, I have met hundreds of caregivers that have, for most of their adult life, set completely unrealistic expectations for their family and have spent the majority of their life disappointed.
They’ve created the expectation that, THIS TIME, mom will say “thank you” for all I’ve done to help her out. Or expect that their siblings will suddenly offer assistance, either physically or financially, to help meet a parents care needs.
The reality is that these expectations actually set those people up to fail. This, ironically, usually causes us to be upset. The problem with upset is that we tend to carry it around with us to other areas of our lives and dump little pieces of our frustration out on unsuspecting bystanders such as our spouse, children and co-workers.
So what can we do to stop the upset? Stop setting unrealistic expectations! As simple as this seems, implementation can be a bit more challenging.
Here are some points to ponder about expectations:
- Evaluate the situation BEFORE you arrive. Example: if you are going to visit family in another state and you know that taking them in smaller doses will be better for your health both mentally and physically, then stay at a nearby hotel where you can de-brief and re-group.
- Don’t set expectations for the time together. Be open for anything which allows you to more easily go with the flow.
- When visiting a family member with a cognitive disorder (ex: Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury), learn everything you can about the disease in order to separate the disease from the person afflicted with it.
- When discussing care needs with your siblings, be direct and to the point about what you need help with. Your siblings are not mind readers (unless they are and then you have every right to be upset because they should have known).
- Ask your spouse or a close friend to help evaluate your expectations. Sometimes an outside perspective is essential to helping us face those around us in a more realistic manner.
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