Caregiving is not for everyone. Remember,
it’s not about you. If the relationship is too
emotionally charged or patience is not your best
virtue, find someone else to take over the
primary role of caregiver.
It is important to reflect upon your motivations
for being a caregiver and to make an honest
assessment of your limitations.
As a caregiver you may at times feel powerless
and sad. But an experience laden with difficulty
may also provide opportunities to strengthen
relationships with loved ones, and for the
development of one’s own personal and spiritual
Focus on the quality of interactions with a
loved one, not on the quantity.
Consistency and predictability of visitations
are important, especially for the homebound.
Learn the healer’s art of “bearing witness.”
This means listening empathically and
suppressing the urge to intervene with
When speaking to someone in bed or in a
wheelchair, sit down or otherwise lower yourself
so that you are at the same eye level as they
are. This will distinguish you from others who
remain standing, essentially looking and
speaking down to them with the unspoken but
inherent power differential this implies.
Choose your battles wisely. Attempting to
address an irrational situation with rationality
is generally futile, and will increase conflict
with no resolution
The hearing impaired are often too prideful to
admit that they haven’t heard most of what you
just said, and are hopeful that they can
eventually figure it out.
Those with mild cognitive impairment are still
quite capable of comprehension, but the thought
process may have slowed down a little. Be
patient and speak slowly.
Asking for a senior’s opinion about a
non-provocative issue may offer them an
opportunity to feel respected and still
At the dinner table when others are present, if
a person needs to have their food cut for them,
discreetly take the plate back into the kitchen
and cut it there. This will add an unspoken but
important element of dignity for those being
Residential and Financial Concerns
The attitudes and behaviors of many seniors are
oftentimes driven by an unspoken fear of
When parents do not feel that their children
have made wise decisions for themselves, they
are naturally hesitant to turn over financial
control to them.
It was not uncommon for senior women to have
deferred to their husbands’ judgment when
choices were being made about financial and
property issues. If now widowed, they may feel
more comfortable acting in accordance with
someone else’s say-so for important
It may be illuminating to discover what memories
a senior has of his or her own parent’s
convalescence. What would they, as caregivers,
have done differently? Had they promised
themselves they would never go to a “nursing
When a senior is facing the prospect of moving
to a continuing care or assisted living
community, speak to them about what they think
this will be like. Many will have a stark vision
of facilities from many years ago when options
were relatively limited.
Seniors will experience good days and bad days
due to effects of pain, adjustment to
medications and or emotional issues.
Seniors who seem short-tempered may be
responding to the frustrating lack of control of
not being able to think as quickly, and remember
as well, as they once had.
Psychology of Seniors
Understand and be prepared to recognize the
issues that trigger depression and anxiety for
Be sensitive to anniversary depressions.
Birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays
evoke memories of those who have passed, and
For most, losing control of physical functioning
is difficult. Experiencing the steady loss of
friends and relatives leads to sadness and
isolation. For those with dementia, witnessing
the gradual loss of one’s own self can be the
If a senior is grieving the loss of a loved one
they think died yesterday, even if that person
actually died years ago, their grief will be as
deep and painful as though it just happened.
This is legitimate suffering and must be handled
Oftentimes, a parent will have a set of
expectations of how they deserve to be treated
by their children based on the sacrifices they
made on behalf of their own parents. When
children do not meet these expectations,
resentment, depression and various forms of
acting out behavior are the result.
Some seniors harbor lifelong prejudices that
were carefully concealed. It can be quite
distressing for a caregiver to discover that
their parent has “all of a sudden” developed a
shocking taste for racial bias. The gradual loss
of mental functioning allows one to become “dis-inhibited”;
thoughts, formerly suppressed due to social
constraints, are now out in the open. This
applies for latent sexual desires as well,
especially for men.
If the person you are caring for continually
puts off medical diagnosis, they are using the
defense of denial in the service of their fear.
If they are never diagnosed, then they never
have to face the reality of being sick.
For Senior Men
More often than not, senior men went along with
the social arrangements made by their wives. If
a man becomes a widower, he may feel out of
place socializing with others on his own.
Additionally, since women outnumber men of this
age group, a man may feel he is betraying the
memory of his wife when engaging in social
situations involving mostly women.
Religion and Spirituality
It is important to understand what a person’s
religious or spiritual beliefs are. Does he or
she believe in an afterlife? Are they concerned
over what is in store for them when their mortal
life ends? Are they disillusioned or angry
Restore and Maintain Balance
It is essential for you, as a caregiver, to
leave time for your own introspection and
emotional balance. Engage in activities that
serve to cleanse toxins and stress from the body
Engage the help of others when necessary to
de-stress and achieve perspective.
Rest and relaxation are critical in order to
prevent “caregiver burnout.”
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