In reviewing her experience with our caregiver coaching work together, a client told me one of the most important milestones she reached was finding her own “enough” – that place where, as an individual, you’re satisfied with the reality of the situation. Yes, it could be better, but it will never be perfect, so you have to find a modicum of acceptance with what is, no matter what’s driving the chaos in your house. Coaching did that for her.
Dementia drives the chaos in our house. It’s lived here for a decade now (hubby’s diagnosis came in 2013) and it’s taken over every aspect of our daily lives. It’s the key driver for every decision from determining when and where we go out, when we eat our meals (and how very simply we eat), how we manage hygiene, who comes to visit (and who doesn’t) and of course, how we navigate life alone-together, just the two of us.
What I mean by ENOUGH is reaching that place where you’ve done enough, spent enough, explained enough, cleaned enough, and problem-solved enough. It can also be the place where you’ve (finally) slept enough, eaten enough, hydrated enough, managed your hygiene enough or tended to the household essentials enough (there’s gas in the car, you’ve picked up the mail, you’ve checked your voicemail, you’ve explored the porch for packages, etc.).
Everything ISN’T done perfectly, it never will be, but it’s done adequately – for now, for today, for just this moment it time. Tomorrow, you can pick up and do better, you can clean a different area of the house, run another load of laundry, order some groceries so you’re not eating spaghetti again. Tomorrow will find its own level for enough – but for today, it’s okay.
Finding YOUR ENOUGH means letting go of perfect. It means leaving behind the unrealistic idea that you can do things the way you always did or manage your life the way you used to do. It means adopting a “good enough” attitude for almost everything that has always been important in your daily activities. This list is from my book Self-Care Strategies for Family Caregivers (published in 2019) – it represents my list of “enough” for tending to my husband’s needs at that time. It addresses key elements of quality of life for the moment — he is:
- Clean enough.
- Fed enough.
- Hydrated enough.
- Medicated enough.
- Entertained enough.
- Free to move around (within logical safety limits).
- Welcome to express his opinion (even if he’s angry).
- With companions (me or others) for adequate stimulation and supervision.
- Offered ice cream — liberally, and whenever requested.
- Able to access cookies (as long as I don’t need to bake).
- Dragged to only minimal medical visits.
- Represented (by his wishes) in formal DNR/DNI and POLST documents.
For me, this was my list of enough in 2019. I’ve updated it slightly over the five intervening years. It still keeps me from blaming myself when life happens and things don’t go as well as I’d prefer.
When is ENOUGH, enough? How do you land on that “sweet spot” that speaks to you – that addresses your sense of sufficiency for the circumstances you have to cope with? This isn’t an easy question. Enough can change from day to day, week to week, year to year. Enough can fluctuate based on your resources at the moment, the availability of your support team, or the energy you have at the end of a long week.
Finding your ENOUGH doesn’t solve every problem (nothing does). It doesn’t make dementia go away (nothing does). It doesn’t make my house or my lifestyle ready for anyone to watch on prime-time television – trust me, nothing ever will. But it does help me keep my sanity, maintain a sense of humor, and live in the moment, accepting the reality of what is, with some grace and self-compassion.
I urge you this week, if you’ve hit a wall, if your frustrated with the reality of the chaos you have to cope with each day, look for your ENOUGH – be generous with yourself about how low you can safely set the bar and then have a cup of tea to celebrate the success you’ll feel in accomplishing enough.
And, as always, let me know if I can help!