If you are caring for aging parents, there are many websites and books you can use to get smart about how to manage and provide care for them.

But, it’s a good idea to remember that no matter how much planning you do, there’s no substitute for experience. Research is important but it’s overrated as a predictor of success. So, don’t feel bad if you can’t get a handle on all the stuff you feel like you need to know. So much of this work happens by just living it.

Because the cost of forgetting this truth is so high, I need mantras to help me feel less overwhelmed in the face of so much to do and learn.

So go get prepared with good books and websites, get support you need from friends but also use these three caregiving mantras to give yourself perspective and stay sane.

1. Just Get in the Boat and Start Rowing

Sometimes I hesitate to start something hard because I don’t want to make any mistakes.

And, concern about mistakes is really understandable when you are managing your parents’ care. The consequences of a mistake seem really huge. There will probably never be another time in your life when you are faced with so many hard and complicated things you need to know and do. It’s overwhelming in the both the sheer amount of stuff but also in the “where do I even start?” category.

Here’s the answer to that: Just start somewhere. Just get in the boat and start rowing. That’s all you have to do. Make just one phone call, ask that first stupid question. Take the first step.

Don’t look up at the mountain, look down at the path. That’s where you’ll find your answers.

You could read all the books that have been written for caregivers. The problem is you still wouldn’t know everything you need to know. The perfect information you need lives only in your individual experiences.

2. If One Path Doesn’t Work, Go Down Another

Often failure on one path is the only thing that points you to the right path. You need to get clear that being on the wrong path is NOT the result of imperfect planning or bad daughterhood.

For example, a friend of mine’s mother suffered severe brain damage from a really simple but devastating fall. My friend and her siblings were wringing their hands over whether she could go home after rehabilitation or would need to go to a nursing home permanently. When we were talking about it, my first thought was that her mother’s care was too complicated for even round the clock care at home but when she told me how important it was to her Dad to be able to bring her mom home, I advised her to try it.

As I suspected, it didn’t work out for long. But for this family, it was more important to have tried and been wrong than to have never tried.

Remember it’s really okay, and also very normal, to try different solutions before you find one that works.

Of course, the one that works will only work for awhile because when you’re caring for aging parents, circumstances are fluid and constantly changing. And, when they change, you’ll choose new paths and make new decisions.

3. Keep Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

Your primary job is not being good at what you do everyday. As a caregiver, your job is showing up, putting one foot in front of the other and not stopping.

A professional mentor of mine told me about being in army ranger school. He said that the guys who lasted were not the big, strong ones. The ones who lasted are the guys who knew that their job was get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other.

Yesterday, you moved your mom into a nursing home or you had to fire another home care worker, or you had to quit your job because you couldn’t keep up with all the responsibilities. Maybe your mom didn’t recognize you for the first time or your dad went into hospice care. You don’t understand the Medicare rules or the hospital doctors are being rude. Your husband and kids are missing you. You and your siblings are fighting. You were looking forward to a vacation and now you have to cancel it.

But, never forget you’re playing a long game here. You will work very hard, you will be frustrated and terrified at every turn. You will go down a lot of paths that lead nowhere and you will want to quit. But, you won’t quit. You’ll keep moving. You’ll get up every morning, show up and put one foot in front of the other.  THIS is success.

Going through this will change you. It will give you a new perspective, mental toughness and greater ability for compassion that few other challenges will bring.  

Download here the one-page 3 Mantras for Daughterhood and put it on your fridge. When you look at it, imagine that we’re all having a cup of tea or a glass of wine together and know you’re not alone.

Also, come check out our community at www.daughterhood.org.