May 5, 2010

Work defined

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives," Annie Dillard.

If, as Malcolm Goldwell in Outliers suggests, work is meaningful only if it provides autonomy, complexity and connection between effort and reward, how can we ensure ourselves these qualities as caregivers?

Autonomy: This is difficult, especially if your caregiving is 24/7, but it is important. Ways to continue to have autonomy are to arrange respite care for yourself (more on this topic tomorrow). There may also be times when you are free to do what you want. For instance, while Dwane reads the newspaper, I feel I can leave to do my exercise. Perhaps you are in a situation where leaving at all is not an option. Can a neighbor come for a bit every day? What can we put in place to still have our autonomy?

Complexity: I think we have this in spades. Observing the physical, behavioral and cognitive changes which necessitate changes we can make in the environment. I think we also need to feed our minds with inspiring and thoughtful material through what we read, watch on tv, etc.

Connection between effort and reward: This can be hard too, as it seems dementia diminishes the ability to recognize and appreciate the efforts of others. Perhaps if we consider why we are doing what we are doing, then we can see the reward of our efforts being an appropriate citizen of the universe. How do you find reward for your effort?

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