Expectations

I heard from a friend the other day; she is a caregiver for her elderly parents. My friend commented, “The hardest part is to let go of the expectation that they will ever be the fun, easygoing people they used to be. And I do not want the years we have left with each other to be filled with discord.”

Expectations. Hoo boy! That’s a big one—and a topic that I address multiple times in my book, What to Do about Mama? Here are a few of the statements about expectations that appear throughout the book:

• Caregiving is fraught with a lack of control over both the situations that occur and the people involved. Our expectations of others were unrealistic; our expectations of ourselves were self-defeating. p. 32
• As much as you think you can look dispassionately at the situation and develop realistic expectations, frankly, no one can imagine the scope of what he or she is getting into. How can you know the unknown? p. 72
• The big trip-up occurs when you discover that the realities do not meet your expectations and you begin to feel disappointment and frustration. p. 87
• Once again, I stress expectations—just because you do what you think is best, there’s no guarantee that the results will be consistent with your intent. p. 130

Following are excerpts from two of the caregiving stories that appear in What to Do about Mama? They both point out that expectations and realities are most often very different.

June’s Story: “I was such an idealist about this opportunity to provide my mother with care. I wanted her to live near me. I wanted this precious time together to get reacquainted and do all those things that had made for such great memories with her as a kid. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.”

Katrina’s Story: “My role started out as an excited, happy daughter who anticipated the joy of having Mom close by for the first time in my married life. I looked forward to involving her with the many friendships and activities in my church and to seeing her almost every day for a few minutes on my way home from work.” And later, “My overall caregiving experience has nearly killed me. The stress has been overwhelming so many times.”

Readers: Do you have personal examples to share?

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Barbara Matthews