Decades ago I began using the imagery of a balance scale as a concrete way of seeing daily living—my own and that of patients. I placed what I saw as requirements in daily living on one side and resources (functional capacities and external assets) on the other. I used it to think about:
what it would take to manage the day, week or even longer periods or even just a task or a project
the level of the balance in general and degree of satisfaction with it
I don’t know how others would define requirements and resources and make it work. But here are the ways I define and use them.
On my requirements side I place
- any activity or experience that I see as demanding use of my physical/cognitive/ emotional resources or outside assets. I find that they include: demands that I make on myself (the “musts” “shoulds” and “doesn’t matters”) but also what I truly want to do. They also include the demands that others make on me, e.g. family, friends, pets, health care providers, government, weather, terrain, etc.
On the resources side I have two sub categories, my internal functional capacities and outside assets.
- my functional resources included any relevant physical, cognitive, emotional capacities in whatever status they are available to me at the time of need. I also include some other elusive resources such as courage, creativity, desire, imagination initiative, perseverance etc.
- my external assets include people in my life (personal, professional et al,) things (tools, equipment etc), services, environmental/natural assets etc.
Note: Wishful thinking is outlawed. These assets had to be realistically
- available geographically, physically, monetarily, culturally . . . . .
- accessible in language I understand, offered in ways I can accept, within my beliefs or values so it was possible for me to engage with them. . . .
- usable, something I could actually physically, mentally do (e.g., weakened hands prevent me from manipulating dressings in wound care , tiny pills etc.)
- sustainable, continuing to be available, accessible and usable for the duration of my need for them.
What triggers my thinking about R&R balance?
Again the “devil is in the detail”. I found that changes, increases or decreases in one element of the balance affected other parts. For example: If one of my functional capacities or one of my outside assets changed, it affected specific areas of my requirements, other capacities and the use of my assets. Conversely when something was changed in what I had or wanted to do, or someone else expected me to do it required attention to other specific requirements, capacities or assets. But it was always real, concrete.
Initially I tended to use this image in situations where either a new demand was made or some capacity or resource changed. Then I realized there were times when I had more capacities than I was using or shrunken capacities improved—I could require more. Or someone else saw capacities I was under- utilizing, such as the time when someone convinced me to write this blog. Or someone stepped into a situation and offered to help me to do more or differently.
The balance is not a steady state in degree or overall level
For me, the degree of balance can vary from day to day. But there’s usually been a general sense of it. The level of balance also varies. For me, some days it feels high; my resources allow me to do everything I want to do; other times it can be much lower.
Satisfaction with the level of one’s balance
Each person has their own degree of satisfaction with the general level of their balance. I’ve seen patients who were dissatisfied with what I saw as a high level of balance given their circumstances, and others who seemed content with their balance at precariously low levels. Satisfaction is in the eye of the beholder. Outside groups have researched and defined what constitutes “ideal” or “healthy” balance in aging. Individual agers’ own satisfying/unsatisfying balances may or may not conform.