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The Roller Coaster of Caregiving

By Jane Cassily Knapp, RN, LCSWC
(Page 1 of 4)

The decisions to become a caregiver are usually made in crisis situations. We rarely have time to consider the ramifications of these decisions nor do we really fully understand that there are any ramifications. What could be so difficult about caring for someone we love?

In the ideal situation a family meeting should be called to get an understanding from all involved as to what the primary caregiver’s role will be. What are each family member’s expectations and understanding of caregiving? What is the family’s plan for support to the caregiver? Scheduled assistance and relief to the caregiver should be routinely incorporated into the weekly schedule from the onset.

The caregiving role is a pivotal one: You become the center person, the “expert” in the care of someone. Everyone else in the family is required to go through you to find out what is now needed for this person. Your new position forever changes your role with each family member.

It’s a little like working with the same group of people on your job for 20 years and suddenly being promoted to the boss. People who were your comrades and trusted support system are now critical of you and your actions. They don’t want your job but they’re jealous that you have it. They may also feel that through your new caregiving role you now hold control over their actions to some extent.
Avoid pit falls……… Dispel misunderstandings/ myths regarding your desire to be the caregiver. Others not available or not wanting the responsibility to caregive may misunderstand your motives. Often this is rooted in their guilt over not taking on this role themselves. They begin to question………”what is your hidden agenda for caregiving?”

You must want the estate or checking account, etc. If this is allowed to brew you may find yourself in the midst of serious family conflict.

You think everyone should be so grateful to you for the incredibly generous gift you are providing the family and suddenly you become very hurt by these knives of jealousy and misperceptions.

Usually caregivers are by nature giving people. This additional responsibility seems natural to them. These persons occasionally suffer from co-dependency. This means that they have had a history of setting poor boundaries and healthy limits to protect themselves from being victimized or exhausted.

Others, not attuned to this, often misunderstand. They may have healthier boundaries and would never allow themselves to do more than they feel they can do. Therefore, they assume that the caregiver is not going to work harder than they can tolerate. If an exhausted caregiver continues to try to provide everything needed without asking for help, those around them assume that they are fine. If they weren’t fine they would stop and ask for help. The caregiver may become angry and feel abused and victimized. They feel that others should know that they need help but if you don’t ask, no one will know. The people around you may not be unwilling or uncaring; they just aren’t mind readers. No one enjoys being related to a martyr.


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