Self Caring

When It's So Hard To Go So Slow"¦

Last updated:

April 12, 2011
Piggy Back

It's always inspiring when I see caregivers who appear blessed with the tortoise gene. They move placidly, slooooowly, through their duties, matching the glacial pace of their loved ones, apparently unruffled by the incredible amounts of time it can take a frail elder to get in or out of a car or a chair, progress across a waiting room, maneuver into a coat.

I was never that caregiver.

Walking alongside Dad, I would -- literally -- press my fingers deep into my sides to channel my impatient energy. Helping to feed my grandmother, I'd bite my lip in order not to spoon too fast. I felt like I'd explode with the pent-up energy of going slow.

(Patience isn't my strong suit as a mother, either.)

One of the hardest parts of everyday eldercare is simply slowing down to get the job done. You learn to add an hour to every appointment or errand, just to allow for getting to and from the car. Your heart sinks when you have to come back for another test the very next day -- from the sheer complication of it -- count minutes until a medication dosage may be given, or between pill and food, or between bathroom breaks.

For most of us, turtle-time doesn't come naturally, and we never get used to it.

Nevertheless, here are five silver linings to Going Slow:

  • 1. You'll prevent accidents. Rushing your loved one is a good way to cause him or her to miss a step and fall, for example. Or he or she may try to do something alone for which help is really needed.

  • 2. You create more goodwill. The impatience I thought I was so cleverly concealing would come out in my tapping toes or my frowning brow. Don't think your loved one doesn't know. Humans are great at reading emotions through body language, and your annoyance will only make him or her feel worse.

  • 3. The found time can be sweet time . Busy mid-lifers tend to take life's transition moments for granted as we hurry here, hurry there. But those long minutes in the car or in the waiting room can be quality time for conversation and "being in the moment."

  • 4. You'll be more efficient, and therefore effective. Rushing is a good way to forget key paperwork, the bottles of meds for the doctor to look at, your mom's favorite pillow for sitting on waiting-room chairs, your list of questions, change for hot coffee, an umbrella. It's always something, and the slower you go, the better your chance of getting it all together.

  • 5. The real payoff: You'll be healthier. Oh, that! Slowing down to meet the needs at hand truly does wonders for your blood pressure and your heart, even though it can feel so hard to do. The smartest impatience-fighter I learned was deliberate deep breathing: Inhale deeply through the nose, hold it for a few counts, then let it out slooooowly through the mouth. Nobody can really tell you're de-stressing -- but you will.

Besides, if you're spending any amount of time dealing with a frail elder, you really don't have much choice. So you might as well make the pace work for you.