What Would You Have Resolved Before Caregiving Began?

In 1998, I sat in my bedroom in my parents’ home and penned The Caregiving Years handbook. Through the handbook, I wanted to share ways to walk the caregiving journey without walking out. More importantly, I wanted the handbook to help family caregivers end the experience without regrets and move into their lives’ next chapter with a motivating sense of purpose.

The handbook includes tips for for the “Expectant Caregiver,” the individual expecting a caregiving situation in the future. At that time, in 1998, those of us the in the eldercare industry faced a huge obstacle in reaching those pre-caregivers. As know, very few prepare for caregiving. Recently, though, I can see a shift, that many now understand that caregiving may be a part of their future. It’s no longer about “if” but about “when.” At some point in our lives, we all will be caring for a family member or friend. And, for some, the caregiving experience may be one repeated a few times.

Last year, when I updated The Caregiving Years handbook, I reflected on what I learned in the 13 years since publishing the first edition. I realized that how you manage the experience can be influenced by how you are when you start the experience.

So, in the fourth edition, I added these tips in The Expectant Caregiver section for what you can do before caregiving begins :

Take time to sort out your own issues.
It’s easy to overlook these issues when life seems easy. Caregiving, especially as it intensifies, will make life hard. And, it’s harder if you have unresolved emotional work as it relates to your caree or other family members…If you have difficulty standing up for yourself or finding your voice, this is a good time to work with a therapist or life coach to gain confidence in your decisions and your voice.

Do you struggle with the idea of asking for help? Now is a good time to figure out why and start practicing. Knowing how and when to ask for help is a great skill, which will become a huge asset for you.

“The Four Agreements, A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” a book by Don Miguel Ruiz, offers insights about our personal codes of conduct. As your caregiving journey continues, you’ll interact with family, friends and health care professionals who will drive you nuts. This book will give you the tools so you can stay sane.

Find your best shape―physically and financially. 

Find a work-out routine you like. Maximize the amount of healthy foods you eat. Pay off your debts. Save as much as you can. Uncomfortable managing money? Read books and take classes (online and in your community) to become comfortable. You’ll need to be at your best―physically, emotionally and financially.

Learn your caree’s life story. 

Document the story in a journal, video or audio recording. Collect recipes, photos, letters, poems and records that reflect your caree’s life and achievements. Ask questions about your caree’s childhood, parents, siblings and first loves. Involve other family members, including children, in the discussions.

Begin each day with the knowledge that you have love. 

Perhaps the toughest battles in caregiving begin within. Most battles really are about whether or not you are loved―by your caree, by other family members, by friends, by your significant other. End the battle now: Know you have the love. Know it now so you can remind yourself later.

In November, I spoke at a caregivers conference in Gwinnett County, Georgia. During the conference, Rabbi Scott Saulson delivered a workshop entitled, “What About Me? What About Us? Tiptoeing through the Mindfields of Caregiving.” During his presentation, Rabbi Saulson said:

If you know who you are, caregiving will be easier.

Exactly. There’s no better time to find out who you are then before a stressful life event like caregiving. A secure sense of self provides that all-important anchor when stress would like to swing you off your feet.

I’m wondering: What issue would you have resolved before the intensity of caregiving began? Please share your thoughts in our comments section, below. We’ll choose a winner to receive a copy of The Caregiving Years handbook.

Reminders: Table Talk on Your Caregiving Journey airs at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday. Kristin joins me to update us on her recent five-day break. Listen here. Our next chat on Twitter takes place on Sunday, January 22, at 8 p.m. ET. To join, go to tweetchat.com and enter our hashtag: #carechat.

Book Sale: You can save 20% on my books, including Take Comfort and Take Comfort, Too. Just use coupon code PRICETHAW at check-out. Buy here.

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About Denise Brown

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

4 thoughts on “What Would You Have Resolved Before Caregiving Began?

  1. kristin

    I would have resolved the issue of what direction my post-retirement life should take. It’s a moot point now, but I wish I had clarified my goals in regard to how I could best have contributed to make life better for others.

  2. Tom Novotny

    Hi Denise,

    Reaching out to Expectant Caregivers:
    I’m here to testify this is an issue that is important. My wife was diagnosed with brain cancer in May of 2011. Today, January 21st, 2012 I am a caregiver who needed a 100 piece brass band standing in my front lawn playing at full tilt attempting to get my full attention to the enormous task ahead. Solo caregiver beware! There are situations ahead that enter your new role you may not anticipate. Your routines built over many years of family/married life will change. I could go on, but I’ll save it for a different post.

    This Expectant Caregiver category struck a nerve. You might think the medical institution might make a point of identifying those people they know will soon be saddled with increasing caregiving duties. You might think they would make a more concentrated effort to alert the caregiver of the impending responsibilities. This is not necessarily the case! All you might get is a small pamphlet in an “aftercare” folder packed with all kinds of different directives. Then, one cold morning you realize you need a home health aid, you are behind in your career, and your caree is not getting better.

    I believe the task of impressing the Expectant Caregiver with the size and complexity of the upcoming change needs much greater attention.

    Hi Denise! I don’t know if you remember me, but our paths crossed in the 80s when my caree was my mother. You even interviewed me on your radio show-the topic was music for nursing home residents. I was playing small sin-a-longs for the residents in my mom’s nursing home.

    Tom N.

    • Avatar of DeniseDenise Post author

      Tom! Of course I remember you! I spoke about you this fall with a friend. I was reminiscing about the audio tapes of my newsletter we made in your basement.

      I am so sorry about your wife. I’m sending you an email…

  3. Avatar of Bette

    Hi Denise,
    Thank you for “The Caregiving Years” and the many many insights there. It has been such a help to me and to others that I’ve met where a caregiving conversation has begun.

    I would have resolved my differences with my mother earlier. As caregiving intensified it would have been so helpful to have understood and accepted those differences.

    Caregiving brings with it the need for understanding: I’m grateful for “The Caregiving Years” and the coaching calls I’ve had with you -both have helped me understand so many of the feelings that come with caregiving. That understanding and resolution has enabled me to continue to care for my mother at home.


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