I began caring for my Mother after my Father and brother died. At the time she was living a state away and deeply mourning the loss. I began going to see her once a month and at the time I did not consider that what I was doing was caregiving, I was just looking after my Mother.
Within that year I realized that her grief and personal needs were not being met. She was fully capable of doing the things one does on a daily basis, but her grief had become almost debilitating. We talked and decided it was best for her to come live near me. I moved her to a semi-independent living residence 20 minutes from my home. We were able to spend many weekends here on my farm in the mountains, going on excursions and having fun together. Slowly over the years her physical abilities started to decline and there were ER trips, hospital stays, and rehab. I moved her to assisted living where she could have 24-hour care and help. My caregiving responsibilities increased incrementally as her abilities declined.
Eventually, she was no longer able to come to my home for weekends. Our lunch dates and shopping trips stopped. While her mind was in great shape, she continually told me she was “ready to move over and let someone else have her spot here”. At the age of 94, my mother suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that had left her bed ridden and unable to speak or do anything for herself. She died six months later.
Over the 6+ years that I cared for my mother, I was stressed, frustrated, my work was compromised, and I felt isolated. No one really seemed to understand what I was going through. I was “on call” 24/7 meaning I was never able to go anywhere without my phone. I spent on average 20-30 hours a week taking care of her needs. This included helping her process her emotions, taking her or doing her shopping, meeting with health care staff, and coordinating our lives.
When she died, I was lost. I missed her terribly and I missed taking care of her. I spent a year grieving and trying to figure out my life. It felt as though a huge piece of my life was gone. I realized that being her caregiver had changed me, and I wanted to do something with that.
In my professional work, as a corporate trainer, I kept meeting employees that were caregivers and were facing similar challenges that I had encountered. They had so many questions, like I had, and didn’t seem to know where to go for answers. I started sharing insights and resources from my own caregiving experiences. Ultimately, I became a Certified Caregiving Consultant to support caregivers, so they don’t have to do this alone.
The training from Denise Brown of The Care Years Academy was incredible. I learned how to translate my experience into a meaningful approach for supporting caregivers. I realized through my training that so many of my experiences with my Mother were useful to other caregivers. Also, through my corporate training lens, I was able to recognize the growth of the caregiving employee and how their responsibilities were competing with their careers. A large majority of Family Caregivers feel alone and don’t tell their employers about their caregiving role for fear of losing professional opportunities. I chose to also educate employers on how caregivers in the workplace struggle and the best ways to support them.
One of my key coaching skills is validating. Caregiving is an emotional roller coaster, leaving a caregiver feeling anything from anger to frustration to love, and even resentment and guilt. These feelings can run the gamut in the course of a day, week, or month. No one understands these emotions better than someone who has lived this life. Validating lets caregivers know that what they are feeling is completely normal and they can begin to accept these feelings as part of the caregiving role.
Other areas of my coaching approach include supporting caregivers in their decisions, in anticipating situations with resources primed to alleviate worry, and making recommendations of other professionals in the senior care world that can join their care team. The caregiving struggle includes coordinating tasks, making multiple hard decisions, and managing worry. Telling a caregiver to go Google something is only adding more tasks to their list. But, providing them with a link, a name, and a phone number can save them time.
One of the most vital needs for a caregiver is time. Often the hour they spend with me is time regaining calm as I am able to lay before them powerful tools like The Family Emergency Plan, communication plans, and methods for problem solving. We focus on preparing for situations, which saves time in the long run. We tackle seemingly insurmountable situations using my Finding Time Wheel. Together we work to regain time, a caregiver’s vital resource, through preparation and problem-solving.
I am also a Certified Caregiving Educator and present classes on Denise Brown’s “The Six Stages of Caregiving”. These classes are for groups and companies wishing to learn more about how caregiving can impact life and work. This educational program is for anyone who anticipates becoming a caregiver or is already a caregiver. It is also a great way for employers to support Family Caregivers at work by providing caregivers and their managers tools for talking about this important role.
The number of Family Caregivers in our society is growing. Currently 1 in 5 people are caregivers. Caregivers don’t have as many resources for support as their loved one in need of care. Most people don’t realize how caregiving impacts life, work, and families. My experiences as a family caregiver and a Certified Caregiving Consultant and Educator avail me to supporting caregivers and their employers in recognizing that while caregiving is likely the hardest thing someone will ever do, they don’t have to do this alone.
Author: Robin Weeks
My Pivotal Point, LLC
“Supporting You at Every Turn”