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5 Things Caregivers Can Learn From March Madness

Although I grew up surrounded by basketball, I’ve only filled out two March Madness brackets in my life. The first time – about 7 years ago – I had my dog make my picks. This year, I turned to my dad for assistance. So while I'm no expert on picking winners, I've certainly seen my share of tournaments over the years.

We were off to a good start, but this year has been replete with upsets and bracket killers, causing ample heartburn and beer drinking throughout the country over the past four days. And there are still two weeks to go!

(c) City of Augusta, Georgia

(c) City of Augusta, Georgia

But as I watched my own bracket go up in flames, I began to reflect on the similarities between caregiving and this crazy basketball competition. Here are five lessons March Madness teaches us about caregiving:

Nobody’s perfect. Did you know that Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans offered one billion dollars (yes, you read that right) to anyone who registered for their March Madness pool and submitted a perfect bracket? All the winner had to do was correctly predict the winners of all 63 games in a single-elimination tournament.

Oh, did I mention that it’s never been done before? No one was still eligible for the prize after the very first day of games. Nobody is perfect – and caregivers are no different. And that’s all right. When we have unreasonable expectations for ourselves, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

Anything can happen. Did anyone expect 14th-seeded Mercer University to beat Duke? No – but March Madness is fertile ground for the amazing and the unexpected. And that’s just one example of many breathtaking moments that have already occurred in this year’s tournament.

The same is true of caregiving. We might think we know how our day or week or month will transpire – and we may assume that it will be filled with angst and problems and worries – but anything can happen.

Dad might have an awesome day. We might learn that we qualify for a service that makes life better for everyone. Heck, we might even get a good night’s sleep, and that’s something to celebrate.

Heart can trump ability. I’m not saying any of the teams that made it into the tournament lacks ability. But some teams clearly have more power, polish, or a grasp of fundamentals than others.

And yet, time and again, underdogs have prevailed. They played with their hearts, and they believed they could win. As caregivers, even if you don’t feel you have the skills to succeed, you have the heart that can help you rise above any challenge. You just have to tap into it.

We can start over. Sure, the performance of teams during the regular season helps determine who is in the March Madness tournament. But once the tournament begins, the past becomes irrelevant. All teams are on a level playing field, and no one is hostage to a regular season loss or mistake.

Similarly, certain circumstances led you to becoming a caregiver. But now that you are one, each challenge you meet is like a March Madness tournament – a fresh opportunity to shine. Let go of past mistakes or difficulties in your journey. Concentrate on the “game” at hand.

Enjoy the ride. If you really love college basketball (or you really wanted to win that billion dollars), March Madness is a roller coaster of emotions. There are times of elation and times of despair. We win some and we lose some. And that’s okay, because it makes us human. The important lesson is to enjoy the whole journey, because without the good and the bad, it wouldn’t be real.

I’ve often heard caregivers tell me that caregiving is one of the most rewarding and one of the most challenging things they’ve ever done. And they seem at peace with that.

I think these caregivers are enjoying the ride. I encourage you to do the same.

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