What do we mean by consistency? For dog training, consistency means positively reinforcing the desired behavior. And it also means not being negative. When you’re caring for someone, especially an elder parent or partner, you really want to stay away from negativity. Sometimes the loved one might be negative, but it’s really important that you try to be as positive as you can with the person. It can be tough when he or she is yelling or criticizing you—as happens all too frequently. But the more you can stay positive, the better it will be for both of you, even when your loved one pushes your buttons.
Sometimes there is not enough patience in the world when you’re caring for a loved one. But like training, it’s an essential ingredient. The messages you are trying to convey are not always going to be clear—to your loved one or to your dog—but if you are patient and consistent, eventually the light bulb will go on, in the case of training, and your efforts will be appreciated, in caregiving. Patience is also about not rushing your expectations. Take your time, let things sink in, and you’ll both get rewarded with success.
Ok, when has eldercare ever been called “fun?” The answer is it can be. To the extent you can make the time you have with your loved one fun, the more you’ll both be rewarded, and not just from the feeling you’ll get having done something helpful. You can actually laugh together. You can enjoy a shared interest or a shared activity. You can have those wonderful conversations you always hoped for. That’s not to say there won’t be lots of frustration. Of course there will be. But to the extent possible, make your time together as much fun as you can. Those will be great memories. And, back to dog training for a moment, when it’s fun for her, she’ll keep looking forward to more training sessions.
One final comment: don’t take this too seriously and don’t carry the analogy too far. It’s just an observation.