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  • Writer's pictureMona Cooley

What do you expect?

Expectations of what is expected of others has a two dimensions.

When our family member is faced with mental illness, what one can do may not be the same as it was before they were diagnosed. It is different for everyone. What is important is be conscience of where your loved is at the time. They might be having troubles cognitively so thinking of what to do next maybe a challenge or making a decision.

As a caregiver, be curious what is happening in their lives by saying, "I am curious to know what has you more happier today then yesterday". You seeing a positive situation rather then focusing on an issue will help you to know the difference of what has them happy over being sad. Having a conversation on what they are doing, ask them what they feel about certain situations and what is their opinion on something they are trying to solve. This boosts confidence that someone values their opinion.

Families have a tendency to expect their loved to keep moving forward whereas moving forward has changed. Moving forward maybe the first step to keeping their hygiene in check or maybe the step is starting to live on their own again. If as a caregiver you expect them to meet your expectations, this is setting them up for failure and frustration for you not seeing the expectation met and for others more down on themselves because they know they can't meet your expectation.

I know of a mom who had an expectation of her daughter to keep her hygiene in check, keep her apartment clean but there were times this fell apart. The mom would get frustrated. In turn it had the loved one feeling inept.

Suggestion to consider. Work with them to see what is their next step according to them and cheer them on when they keep moving towards it. One small step at a time is progress, validate the win. Remember, what is easy for one person may not be easy for another. Whenever you are starting to learn something new, keep it in mind this maybe how someone who is faced with a new world of dealing with mental illness feels. Tips for the caregiver whose loved one is not in the same place as they were before they were ill.

PATIENCE – this is one of the most difficult pieces of implementing as a caregiver especially if fixing the situation has been the option. Step back - LUV ( listen, understand, validate). When having a conversation, ask them if they feel heard and understood. If yes, be curious to know what is effective. Being validated for what they do well is a big boost to self-esteem. Build them up to feel more confident to lessen the feeling of hopelessness of ever getting anything right.

TIP: Build on what is working and be curious to understand more when it is not working when supporting a loved one. This is less stress on you and your loved one will be more engaged with you.

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