Month: July 2023

How to Deal with Stubborn Aging Parents Without Losing Your Mind: A Guide

Your sweet loving mom can turn into a stubborn terror. Your easygoing dad will bow up or stub up at every turn when change is involved. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will. They can’t handle everything at their home anymore. They need to stop driving, but they won’t. It is time to get a house on one level, but they won’t move. They won’t acknowledge their health issues or they won’t do anything about them. They won’t listen to advice from anyone, especially their kids.

Unless they have been diagnosed with a type of dementia and have declined to the point of not being able to make decisions, they get to make their own decisions. Even if they are bad decisions. It is so hard to watch someone make choices that impact not only themselves but others around them in a negative way. Learn better ways of communicating with them.

Effective communication is key to dealing with stubborn aging parents. It is important to listen to their concerns and opinions and express your own in a respectful way. By using active listening techniques and avoiding criticism, you can build a stronger relationship with your parents and find common ground. It may be time to learn to set boundaries to maintain your own mental and emotional health. Setting healthy boundaries and managing your emotions are also essential skills for dealing with stubborn aging parents. By taking care of yourself and seeking professional help when needed, you can maintain your own mental health and provide better care for your loved ones.

Understanding Stubborn Aging Parents

Dealing with parents that are stubborn can be a challenging experience. It’s important to understand that their behavior is not intentional, but rather a result of the aging process. As people age, they may experience physical and cognitive changes that can affect their behavior and decision-making abilities.

Here are some common reasons why aging parents may become stubborn:

  • Fear of losing independence: Your parents may feel that accepting help from you means they are losing their independence. They may resist your help to maintain a sense of control over their lives.
  • Resistance to change: Your parents may be set in their ways and resist any changes to their routine or environment. They may feel more comfortable with what is familiar to them.
  • Cognitive decline: As your parents age, they may experience cognitive decline, which can affect their ability to make decisions and communicate effectively. This can make them appear stubborn or uncooperative.
  • Physical limitations: Physical limitations, such as mobility issues or chronic pain, can frustrate and make your parents resistant to help. They may feel that accepting help means they are admitting weakness.

Understanding these reasons can help you approach your aging parents with empathy and patience. It’s important to remember that your parents may be feeling vulnerable and scared, and may need reassurance that you are there to support them and not to take over.

Effective Communication Techniques

Dealing with a stubborn aging parent can be challenging, especially when it comes to communication. However, effective communication is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship with your parents. Here are some communication techniques that can help you deal with stubborn aging parents without losing your mind.

Active Listening

Active listening is an essential communication technique involving paying attention to what your parents say, understanding their perspective, and responding appropriately. To actively listen, you need to:

  • Focus on your parents and avoid distractions.
  • Show that you are listening by nodding, making eye contact, and asking clarifying questions.
  • Avoid interrupting your parents while they are speaking.
  • Repeat what your parents said to ensure that you understood correctly.

Active listening can help you understand your parents’ concerns and find common ground. Please understand that common ground is where you begin to build or work towards better solutions.

Empathy and Patience

Empathy and patience are essential when communicating with stubborn parent. Empathy involves putting yourself in your parent’s shoes and understanding their feelings and emotions. Patience involves being calm and understanding, even when your parents are being difficult. You are going to grow old and your kids will be going through the same things that you are going through. 

To show empathy and patience, you can:

  • Acknowledge your parents’ feelings and emotions.
  • Avoid getting defensive or angry.
  • Take a break if you feel overwhelmed.
  • Remember that your parents may be struggling with physical or mental health issues.

By showing empathy and patience, you can build trust and understanding with your parents. Do they understand that you have their best interest at heart? Do you have their best interest at heart or what is best only for yourself?

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication involves using body language and facial expressions to convey your message. Non-verbal communication can be a powerful tool when communicating with irrational stubborn aging parents. Remember, that dementia patients pick up on non-verbal communication very easily. 

To use non-verbal communication effectively, you can:

  • Use a calm and relaxed tone of voice.
  • Avoid crossing your arms or standing with your hands on your hips.
  • Make eye contact with your parents.
  • Use facial expressions to convey your emotions.

Non-verbal communication can help you convey your message and build rapport with your parents. Match your words with your body language.

By using these effective communication techniques, you can improve your relationship with your stubborn aging parents and avoid losing your mind. Remember to be patient, empathetic, and understanding, and always strive to find common ground.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Dealing with stubborn aging parents can be challenging, but setting healthy boundaries can help you maintain your sanity. Here are some tips to help you set boundaries with your parents. Setting boundaries is difficult, but necessary for all involved.

Respecting Personal Space

As your parents age, it’s important to respect their personal space. This means giving them the privacy they need to feel comfortable in their own home. If you’re visiting your parents, make sure to knock before entering their room or bathroom. If your parents are staying with you, make sure they have their own space where they can relax and unwind.

Time Management

Managing your time is another important aspect of setting healthy boundaries with your parents. If you’re constantly running errands or doing chores for your parents, you may feel overwhelmed and stressed out. It’s important to set aside time for yourself and your own needs. This might mean saying no to your parents’ requests or delegating tasks to other family members or caregivers.

Here are some tips for managing your time:

  • Make a schedule and stick to it.
  • Prioritize your own needs first.
  • Learn to say no when necessary.
  • Delegate tasks to other family members or caregivers.

By setting healthy boundaries with your aging parents, you can maintain your own well-being while still providing the care and support they need. Remember to be patient and understanding, and to communicate your needs clearly and respectfully.

Managing Your Emotions When You Deal With Stubborn Seniors

Dealing with stubborn aging parents can be a challenging and emotional experience. It’s important to take care of yourself and manage your emotions so that you can be there for your parents when they need you. Here are some tips on how to manage your emotions while dealing with stubborn aging parents.

Stress Management

Stress is a common emotion when dealing with aging parents, especially when they are being stubborn or difficult. Here are some tips to help manage your stress:

  • Practice deep breathing exercises or meditation to help calm your mind and reduce stress.
  • Take a break from caregiving responsibilities and do something you enjoy, like reading a book or taking a walk.
  • Talk to a friend or therapist about your feelings and frustrations.
  • Set boundaries with your parents and communicate your needs clearly.

Self-Care Practices

Taking care of yourself is important when dealing with stubborn aging parents. Here are some self-care practices to help you manage your emotions:

  • Make time for self-care activities, like exercise or hobbies.
  • Eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep to help maintain your physical and emotional well-being.
  • Practice positive self-talk and focus on your strengths and accomplishments.
  • Seek support from family and friends, or join a support group for caregivers.

Remember, taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your aging parents. By managing your emotions and practicing self-care, you can be a better caregiver and maintain a healthy relationship with your parents.

Seeking Professional Help

Dealing with stubborn aging parents can be challenging, and sometimes it can be difficult to manage on your own. Seeking professional help can be an excellent way to handle the situation and ensure that your parents receive the care they need. Talk therapy is a great tool to help you figure out your values, your boundaries, and your self-care needs.

What can you hire out to make your life easier? If you only view it as an extra expense then nothing will be worth hiring out.  Sometimes, the money spent provides a greater value to you and your loved one.

Check out my services, to see if I can benefit you and your loved one. If you aren’t sure, then let’s have a conversation to see. Email me or call me and leave a message, at 865-684-8771.

You expect a good competent doctor, but are you being a good patient?

You deserve a doctor that you can work with on your healthcare needs. It really is a team effort. You have your job to do and your doctor has their job to do and the goal is the best health possible. Your doctor is not a mind reader and the “Oh, by the way”… comments at the end of the visit frustrate and piss doctors off.

Don’t do that. You expect your doctor to be professional, competent, and willing to help you. Your doctor expects you to be professional, competent, and willing to help them help you. Would you go into a meeting unprepared? I wouldn’t. I would have all my ducks in the same pond and probably in a row. How about you?

Preparation makes a good patient

Prep work makes the visit go so much smoother and you will get a lot more accomplished. The reality is that you have about 8 minutes with your doctor. You are in your body 24-7 and you know when something is not right. You may not know what is wrong, but you can write down the clues for your doctor to better diagnose you.

Learn to become a better advocate for yourself and your loved ones. You deserve the best care possible and your doctor deserves your help. Never lie to your doctor or your lawyer.

We must address Dr. Google. We all know that we are going to look up our issues or symptoms online. That is perfectly fine. You do need to be careful what sites you are using to find your information. Use reputable sites.

Some Reputable Sites for You to Use

National Institutes of Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Everyday Health

Mayo Clinic

Psychology Today

Verywell Mind

Use these sites to gather information and possibilities. Be curious and learn but, don’t expect to be your own diagnostician. That takes a lot of skill and practice which your doctor has and that is what they are good at. Work together. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made with parts being connected in ways we don’t always understand. Take referred pain for example. Referred pain is pain at a location OTHER than the site or origin of the painful stimulus. You have pain in your back and you find out it is from a problem with your pancreas. You could be having a heart attack but the only pain you have is in your jaw. You have pain in your upper neck or shoulder that is actually an injury or problem with your liver or gallbladder.

What is fair to expect from a good doctor?

·       Willingness to listen to you and your needs

·       Willingness to work with you on your healthcare needs

·       Smart and competent in their particular area of specialty

·       Their ability to state when they don’t know what is going on, but they are going to try to find out

·       Their ability to refer you when needed

·       Reasonable wait times – your time is valuable too

·       That the staff is friendly and competent

·       That they are comfortable with you asking questions

·       That they explain everything in terms you understand

·       They are concerned about your home and work situations

·       They treat you with dignity and respect

What is fair for your doctor to expect from you?

·       You show up for your appointment prepared

·       You are signed in and ready for your appointment on time

·       You get to the point of your visit for today

·       You take your medication as prescribed

·       You let them know if the medication seems to be working or not working with a call back after an agreed-upon time for that information

·       You take personal responsibility for your choices that impact your health AND are willing to modify or change them when your health is at risk (with some help and guidance)

·       Give truthful and accurate information

·       That you are well informed about your current diagnoses and possible complications along with information on what you can do to mitigate those complications.

Have a more productive office visit by doing the following:

Prepare ahead of time

·       Write down all of your medications, supplements, herbs, and any other products that you use/take regularly.

·       List why you are taking the medications or over-the-counter medications. You may be taking a medication off-label or from another prescriber. Off-label means other than its approved or intended use.

·       Make a list of your medications that need to be refilled and if you need a 30 days supply or three months supply.

·       Know the goal of this appointment. What do you want to get out of today’s meeting?

·       For a yearly or regular visit, lab tests may be done after the visit. Find out if you need to make a follow-up appointment to discuss the results or if the results will be mailed to you or available for viewing on a patient portal. You need to follow up on these results, if you have not received a call or information on the results from your provider.

For a “new” issue or problem – write down the symptoms and be as descriptive as possible.

o   When did it start?

o   What is happening?

o   How do you feel?

o   Where is the pain and what type of pain is it (sharp, dull, constant, waves, colicky, intermittent)?

o   Does anything make it better or worse?

o   What you have tried already.

Bring someone with you and take notes. It is hard to hear everything. Ask questions when you are not sure or need more clarity.

Be open to a diagnosis that you have not considered

I get it, it is hard to not say…I have plantar fasciitis. Maybe, you do, but what if it is really Achilles tendonitis? You have pre-disposed your doctor into looking at that and possibly treating it instead of what you really do have. The treatment approaches are different. If you aren’t being treated for the correct thing, you won’t get better. When you don’t get better…what happens? You get mad. Sometimes you call for a follow-up appointment and sometimes you don’t and keep hurting. Try your best to stick to your signs and symptoms and let them do further testing.

Back when I was young, I was having constant chest pain. The only things that I could figure out were pleurisy or a heart attack. It hurt like a mother. I went to the doctor and described the pain, the location, duration, etc. I won’t lie, I was concerned as I was too young for this stuff to be happening, but you never know. Turns out it was costochondritis.  I took my anti-inflammatories for 10 days and got much better. So, you see, what I thought it could be was not what it was at all.

If no better … call for a follow-up

If you have completed treatment and you are not better, call for a follow-up and search further. It is the practice of medicine, there are no absolutes. Your doctor is doing their best to provide you with answers and the best treatment available. It is up to you to let your doctor know that it did not work. Maybe you need a medication change or a therapy change. You may even need to be reassessed for another diagnosis. Your signs and symptoms can mimic other diseases or conditions and those things will need to be ruled out.

Taming Your Defensiveness in Trying Times

Become a better listener

Defensiveness rears its ugly head when we are tired or feeling overwhelmed. Assume plays a big part in the problem. You assume that he meant, “JKL”, but he didn’t mean that at all. You assume she meant, “DEF”, but she didn’t mean that at all. As we all have learned assume makes an ass out of you (u) and me.

One person makes a statement or comment and the fight is on. Most of the time it is unintentional. There are times when it is intentional and that is a whole other article. We are going to look at the unintentional statements or comments this time.

Who are you more like in this story?

Once upon a time, there was a couple, Sarah and John, who had been together for several years. They were usually loving and understanding with each other, but like any couple, they faced challenges from time to time.

One particular week, both Sarah and John had been overwhelmed with work and personal commitments, leaving them emotionally and physically exhausted. They barely had any time to connect or relax, and this took a toll on their relationship.

One evening, after a long and draining day, Sarah arrived home feeling utterly exhausted. She longed for some peace and quiet, hoping to unwind and recharge. John, on the other hand, had also had a demanding day and was feeling no better.

As Sarah entered the house, she immediately noticed that John seemed agitated. Hoping to engage in a calm conversation, she asked how his day went. However, John, tired and overwhelmed, misunderstood her tone as accusatory and defensive.

Sensing hostility where there was none, John defensively replied, “It was a terrible day, all right? Just like every other day lately! I don’t need you to remind me of that!” Sarah, taken aback by his response, felt hurt and confused as she didn’t mean any harm with her question.

Feeling her own exhaustion kicking in, Sarah’s emotions went haywire, and instead of responding calmly, she mirrored John’s defensiveness. “Oh, so now I can’t even ask about your day without you snapping at me? I’m exhausted too, you know!” she exclaimed.

The conversation quickly turned into a heated exchange of frustrations and misunderstandings. Both Sarah and John’s exhaustion clouded their judgment, causing them to misread each other’s intentions and statements.

Realizing the escalating situation, Sarah took a deep breath and decided to break the cycle. She managed to find the strength to say, “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to come across that way. I’m just really tired, and I thought we could share our struggles and support each other.” John, noticing Sarah’s vulnerability, softened and replied, “I’m sorry too. I misinterpreted your question, and I know we’re both feeling drained.”

They sat down together, allowing their exhaustion to be acknowledged. Both Sarah and John understood that it was their mutual tiredness and stress that had led to the misunderstanding. They realized it was essential to give each other space to decompress and be patient during challenging times.

From that day forward, Sarah and John made a commitment to communicate openly about their exhaustion levels and provide each other with the understanding and support they needed. They recognized the importance of approaching conversations with empathy, especially when both parties were drained.

Over time, as Sarah and John prioritized rest and relaxation, they found that their misunderstandings became fewer and farther between. They learned to be more patient with themselves and each other, ultimately strengthening their bond. The story of their exhaustion-induced misunderstanding became a valuable lesson in the power of empathy and self-care within a relationship.

Who did you most relate to?

Everything was pretty spot on until you reached the paragraph that began with “Realizing the escalating situation, …” You know as well as I know that Sarah did not take a deep breath and decide to break the cycle and John did not settle down or try to understand what was really going on. The things in those last four paragraphs are what we need to learn and work on to be more effective communicators.

Why do people become defensive?

People become defensive for various reasons, and it is a natural human response when they feel attacked, criticized, or feel the need to protect themselves or their beliefs. Some common reasons why people become defensive include:

  1. Self-preservation: When people feel their self-esteem or sense of self is being threatened, they may become defensive as a way to protect themselves from harm or emotional pain.
  2. Fear of judgment or rejection: People may fear being judged negatively by others or being rejected, so they become defensive to shield themselves from potential harm.
  3. Protecting beliefs and values: When someone’s beliefs, values, or opinions are challenged, they may become defensive in an attempt to uphold and defend their personal ideas or identity.
  4. Lack of trust: If there is a lack of trust or a history of feeling attacked in a particular relationship or situation, individuals may become defensive as a way to safeguard themselves from further harm or hurt.
  5. Misunderstood intentions: Sometimes people misinterpret or misjudge the intentions of others, leading them to become defensive even if the intention was not to attack or criticize.
  6. Emotional triggers: Certain topics or issues can trigger emotional responses in individuals, leading them to become defensive as a way to manage or cope with these strong emotions.

It’s important to note that defensiveness can hinder effective communication and understanding, so it is often beneficial to approach conversations with empathy, respect, and an open mind to reduce defensiveness and encourage constructive dialogue.

How you can diffuse defensiveness and keep the conversation from spiraling out of control

  1. Choose your words carefully: Use non-judgmental and non-confrontational language when expressing your thoughts or concerns. Avoid accusatory language that might trigger defensiveness in the other person.
  2. Be empathetic: Try to understand the emotions and perspectives of the person you are communicating with. Show empathy by acknowledging their feelings and concerns, which can help create a more receptive environment. You don’t have to agree with them, but you do need to understand them.
  3. Use “I” statements: Instead of making generalizations or criticizing the other person, focus on expressing your own feelings and thoughts using statements like “I feel” or “I think.” This helps to avoid a defensive reaction since it doesn’t put blame directly on them.
  4. Active listening: Show genuine interest in what the other person is saying. Give them your full attention, maintain eye contact, and make clarifying statements or ask open-ended questions to demonstrate understanding. This can help the person feel heard and valued, reducing defensiveness.
  5. Avoid personal attacks: Stick to the issue at hand and avoid attacking or criticizing the person directly. Focus on discussing the problem or situation without resorting to personal insults or negative language.
  6. Find common ground: Look for areas of agreement or common interests to create a sense of collaboration. By finding shared goals or values, you can shift the conversation to a more cooperative and less defensive tone.
  7. Take breaks if necessary: If the conversation becomes heated or unproductive, it’s okay to take a break and revisit the discussion later when both parties are calmer and more open to dialogue.

Remember, diffusing defensiveness requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to listen and find common ground. It may not work in every situation, but employing these strategies can help create a more constructive and open conversation.

How to become more open-minded

Having an open mind is a valuable quality that can help you grow personally and improve your relationships with others. Here are some steps you can take to develop a more open mind:

  1. Embrace curiosity: Be curious about different perspectives, ideas, cultures, and experiences. Instead of dismissing or judging something, approach it with curiosity and a desire to understand.
  2. Practice empathy: Put yourself in others’ shoes and try to understand their point of view. This can help you become more tolerant and accepting of different opinions, beliefs, and lifestyles.
  3. Challenge your assumptions: Question your own biases and beliefs. Reflect upon why you hold certain opinions and be open to the possibility that they may be based on limited information or personal experiences.
  4. Seek out diverse perspectives: Surround yourself with people who have different backgrounds, thoughts, and beliefs. Engage in discussions with them and be open to learning from their experiences.
  5. Explore new ideas and experiences: Read books, watch documentaries, listen to podcasts, or attend events that expose you to new ideas and perspectives. Step out of your comfort zone and try new activities that push you to think differently.
  6. Stay open to learning: Cultivate a growth mindset and see every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. Be willing to admit when you’re wrong and adjust your thinking accordingly.
  7. Practice active listening: Focus on fully understanding what others are saying rather than just waiting for your turn to speak. Ask questions and engage in meaningful conversations to gain different insights.
  8. Let go of judgment: Avoid jumping to conclusions or making assumptions about people or situations. Instead, approach them with an open and non-judgmental mindset.
  9. Embrace uncertainty: Realize that there is often more than one way to approach a situation or solve a problem. Be comfortable with ambiguity and be open to exploring different possibilities.
  10. Be patient with yourself: Developing an open mind is a continuous process. It takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small progress along the way.

Becoming more open-minded doesn’t mean you get rid of all of your beliefs; it means learning why you believe what you believe. Challenging your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings is a good thing. You learn what you value. You can actually learn what you believe and not what someone else told you to believe. You may have been taught things that are not true. Challenge your biases. Learning and growing is a good thing. Being able to change your mind is a good thing.

What is the common denominator in folks diagnosed with any of the following?

Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Dementia, Epilepsy, Diabetes, & Mental Health disorders

They will need a Care Partner or Caregiver.

What is the difference between a Care Partner and a Caregiver?

Some of you may have never heard the phrase “Care Partner” and are wondering what is the difference between that and a caregiver. A caregiver does things “To” the care receiver and a care partner does things” With” the care receiver. For example, a caregiver may take the spoon and feed the care receiver while the care partner will place their hand under the care receiver’s hand and assists.

Care partners assist with the care while encouraging the person to do all they can do. Yes, it will take longer. Yes, it will probably be messier. Your care receiver needs those successes. They still need to feel useful. They want to contribute, in some way. They want to be as independent as possible and their dignity deserves it.

Are You a Care Partner or a Caregiver?

Quite a few folks never identify as a caregiver or a care partner. They view it as “helping them out.” Taking them to the doctor or to the store is another act of caregiving that is never thought of as caregiving.

Family members, take a look at your role in your care receiver’s life. Is it better for them and you to be a caregiver or a care partner, at this time in your journey? Over time things will change, but right now, what is best? I use both terms interchangeably and am learning that it would be better to use both terms correctly and speak to both the caregiver and the care partner.

I recently saw a new phrase, “Chronic condition care” and I kind of like that, too. We can call it all kinds of things, but we are stuck until the folks providing the help and care identify with those phrases. I look at folks and see that they are clearly Care partners or caregivers, but they never think of themselves that way. Why?

I suppose some think of it as a natural or normal part of the relationship. Some look at it as “just something you do.” Others may fear that if they use the term caregiver, they will have to step up even more and don’t want to do that.

What if you would try the care partnership model first, to improve your loved one’s quality of life? Your role as a care partner may change, over time, but take time to connect with your loved one as you figure out a treatment plan and medication that may help. Strengthen your relationship with your loved one. Communicate what you are feeling (stress and anxiety, fatigue, fear, and whatever else comes up) with your loved one. Too often we clam up and go into protective or preservation mode because of the unknowns. The walls go up and the communication goes way down. Let’s try to reverse this.

If you take on these responsibilities, you are a care partner or caregiver.

If you “help with”, “coordinate care for”, “make appointments for and get them there”, or “see to the care of” …you are a care partner and are probably a caregiver. Yes, even if you don’t do the “hands-on” care. It seems as though the Parkinson’s world has tapped into this Care partner idea much better than the rest of us. Family members and friends can be great Care partners.

Becoming a Care Partner or a Caregiver is a change and sometimes, you don’t want that so you won’t identify with those terms. You are afraid your identity may have to change and you don’t want that. You will help out. What you don’t realize is you are missing out on all of the help available to you and your loved one. It is difficult enough without you making it more difficult.

Being a care partner or a caregiver is hard, but it is not always bad. You don’t have to suffer, hell you can even thrive with the right guidance. Email me and we will set a time to chat and see.

Interesting Read Below:

I saw this on Eurocare and would like to share it with you, The Stages of Caregiving. Read it and see where you are in your journey.

Stage 1: The Expectant Carer

Who are you?

You have a growing concern that, within the near future, your family member or friend will need more and more of your assistance and time. You’re concerned because of your relative’s age, past and present medical condition, and current living condition.

Your keyword: Ask

–Ask questions of your caree.
–Ask questions of health care professionals.
–Ask questions of lawyers and financial planners.
–Ask questions of your family members who may be involved in the caregiving role.

Your Challenge

To learn and understand your caree’s needs: health, financial and emotional.

Your Purpose

You expect to become a family carer; this is your time to prepare. You should research options, gather information, and provide the opportunity for your caree to share his or her feelings and values. This is also your time to concentrate on taking care of yourself–keeping up with family and friends, enjoying your hobbies and interests, pursuing your career goals.

As an “expectant carer,” what can you do?

1. Consult with a good lawyer familiar with eldercare issues. Find out about durable powers of attorney for finances and health care as well as living wills; start the process to ensure your caree has the necessary legal papers in order. Ask the attorney: What do we need to know to be prepared for the future? What additional documents will we need? What should we keep in mind? (A durable power of attorney for finances and health care appoints an agent to make decisions on behalf of your caree when he or she is unable to. If you live in one state and your caree in another, consider having documents created for both states)

2. Determine financial situations. Knowing the financial status of your caree can help determine future health care choices. Determine monthly income from pensions and social security; learn about annuities, stock investments and bank accounts. Meet with financial planners to understand how to ensure investments last as long as possible.

3. Investigate community health care options. Which home health care agencies offer quality, affordable home care? Which housing options are available–retirement communities, assisted living centers? Contact community organizations to request brochures and pamphlets. In addition, consider your family member’s current living condition. Will your aging relative be able to reside safely in her home if she uses a wheelchair, becomes bed-bound? What changes can you make today that will prevent future barriers to providing care in her home? Or, are the necessary changes almost an impossibility? If so, what other options do you have: your home, an assisted living facility, a retirement community?

4. Determine the current health care providers. Be familiar with physicians and learn as much as you can about medications.

5. Concentrate on the reality of the situations. Keep a realistic view of your situation: What’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best possible outcome? Then, determine what options are available for each of these outcomes.

6. Start a journal; chronicle your feelings, your concerns and your actions. You may be surprised at feelings of loss. Your preparation of the future allows you to see what your caree–and you–might lose. You both will experience changes in your relationship, your schedules, your amount of freedom. Write down your thoughts about the potential losses–and how you might be able to hang on to them, through minor adjustments and changes, for a little longer.

7. 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.

8. 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

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. An apple a day… What can you do on a regular basis to keep yourself healthy? Be good to yourself—you are too important today (and tomorrow and every day after that) to let your own health slip. In other words, what’s your apple?

Quick Tip: Organize forms and documents that you’ll need in the future.  

Stage 2: The Freshman Carer

Who are you?

You’ve begun to help your family member on a regular basis, weekly, perhaps even a few times a week. Your duties range from errand-running and bill-paying to some assistance with hands-on care.

Your keyword: Find

–Find services that help. –Find support that comforts. –Find ways to enjoy your hobbies and interest.

Your Challenge

To discover solutions that work.

Your Purpose

This is your entry into the caregiving role. This is your time to experiment, to get your feet wet and see what works. This is your opportunity to learn how the health care industry works with, or in some cases, against you. Now is the time to shape your caregiving personality: What duties are you comfortable with? What duties make you uncomfortable? How well are you and your caree getting along? What situations would create overwhelming stresses for both of you?

This is also the time when you get a feel for the present and future budgets needed to provide the care your caree requires.

In addition, keep up with your hobbies and interests (you may be able only to keep the ones that you enjoy most), ensuring you have made a habit of spending time on your own, enjoying yourself.

As a “freshman carer,” what can you do?

1. Learn as much as you can about your caree’s illness, disease or condition. Consult the local branches or chapters of national organizations such as The Arthritis Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association, The Cancer Society. What does the future hold for you and your caree?

2. Learn how to provide proper care from health care professionals or from health care videos, manuals or books. If your caree is hospitalized or receives short-term therapy at a nursing home, ask the staff to show you proper caregiving techniques: lifting, transfers, bathing. Or, search the Internet for hands-on care information.

It’s very difficult to provide care when you are unsure of what you’re doing. You’ll feel much better when you’re confident of your skills.

3. Join a support group–online or in your community. It’s so isolating to be a carer! Support groups will hook you up with others in similar situations; often, you’ll learn of community resources and options from other carers that you were not aware of.

4. Count on regular breaks from caregiving. Plan for regular breaks–an hour daily, an afternoon weekly, or a day monthly–whatever you can manage. Enlist the help of relatives and community services (such as a volunteer group at your local church) so you can take time off regularly. Relatives can help in many ways–through financial support, social support (calling the caree regularly just “to talk”) as well as respite support.

5. Rely on help from community organizations. Meals on Wheels, home care agencies and day care centers, to name just a few, may offer services that your caree needs.

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging for a listing of services and organizations in your community. Visit your local medical equipment supply store to find devices and gadgets that enhance your caree’s abilities–and independence from you. Remember, allowing the help of others is a sign of strength.

In addition, ask about local, state or federal programs that might provide financial assistance for you and/or your caree. As your caree’s care needs increase, so will the costs associated with his or her care. Understanding what programs can help, in addition to understanding what your caree can afford, will help you plan appropriately for the future.

6. Keep your caree’s wishes in mind. If appropriate, ask for his or her input and ideas. Does your caree still feel good about living at home? What does your caree fear or dread? (These are also good questions to ask yourself!)

7. Reflect the changes in your journal. How do you feel now? What are your concerns? Fears? What outcomes are you working toward? What losses have you noticed during this period? What changes in the relationship cause you to feel sad? What changes have given you comfort?

8. Start a second journal that you use to detail your caree’s needs and your caregiving responsibilities. Note any changes in your caree’s health and condition so that you can confidently discuss your concerns during physician appointments. Use your journal as a caregiving manual, which will help when others step in to provide care. Continue to chronicle your caregiving journey in your first journal. What causes you to mourn?

9. Create the habit of regularly holding family meetings. And, if you and your caree share a household with other family members (including children), consider creating House Rules. Rules for the household include:

–Who does what, how and when; –Guidelines for fights, fun, and festivals (celebrations); –Schedule of meetings and their purposes; –Expectations in regard to support, engagement and participation.

10. Manage the money: Develop a budget, keep track of expenses, set up a filing system for bills and receipts. Keep your caree’s expenses separate from yours and your family’s. Keep track (and receipts) of any of your caree’s bills that you pay. If you’re overwhelmed, consider having a professional, like a financial planner or bank trust officer, oversee your caree’s financial situation, including paying bills.

11. Start a Solutions Fund so you can hire solutions. The account funds solutions for boredom, breaks and back-up plans. Contribute a monthly amount; allow yourself flexibility in how you use the monthly budget. Use the fund for your caree, for the house, for you.

Use the Solutions Fund for your caree to hire services such as home health, adult day or to purchase games.

Use the fund for your house (or your caree’s) to hire cleaning service, lawn maintenance, snow removal. The fund buys you services from a counselor or life coach, or for pampering services, adult education classes and activities.

Ask family members to contribute to your Solutions Fund.

12. Have back-up plans and then back-up plans for your back-up plan. Ask yourself, “What if…” and then create a plan to manage the “What if’s.” If it can happen, most likely it will. Be ready with a plan. A geriatric care manager can be invaluable in developing your back-up plans.

13. Build your own paradise of privacy. Call a spare bedroom or a corner in the basement your own. Add your favorite things (books, chocolate, candles, scrapbook, journal, music, TV, videos, photography, family photos) to make the space a retreat you love to use.

14. Continue to maintain your healthy lifestyle. Take note when the stress causes too much comfort food or too few walks. One of your best defenses against the impact of stress is a healthy lifestyle.

15. An apple a day… What’s your apple in this stage? What helps you to feel good on a daily basis? Enjoy your apple every day.

Stage 3: The Entrenched Carer

Who are you?

Your involvement with your caree is almost daily–if not constant. Your caree may live with you–or your involvement means that your day is structured to be available to your caree. You begin to wonder, how much longer can you live this way? Your mood is sometimes upbeat–you’re proud you’ve been able to provide such wonderful care and make decisions that support your caree’s best wishes–and sometimes melancholy–why you? You’ve been mourning the loss of your caree’s abilities and functions and often long for the days before caregiving. And, you’re tired.

Your Keyword: Receive

–Receive help–from anyone who offers; –Receive breaks from caregiving; –Receive support.

Your Challenge

To find the support and strength to continue.

Your Purpose

To develop a routine, create a familiar schedule for both yourself and your caree. A routine will help you deal with the overwhelming stresses and responsibilities that wear you out. A routine will provide comfort for you and your caree–this stage may be the most difficult for both of you. The changes you prepared for in Stage I and II are now a reality–you have become something of a lifeline to a family member or friend.

In addition to your caree’s routine of care, create a routine for yourself. In your routine include: Time for the unexpected; a ritual which begins and ends your day; and a “healthness” activity that nurtures your spiritual, emotional, physical, mental needs.

As an “entrenched carer,” what can you do?

1. Determine your limits in your day and in your role. How long can your caree remain at home? What’s your comfort level in providing care in your home? For instance, some family carers feel uncomfortable providing care when their caree becomes incontinent. Others determine they can provide care at home as long as insurance or Medicare benefits offset some of the home care expenses. Others feel they can provide care as long as their other family members, like spouses and adult children, will put up with it.

Just as important as understanding your limits in your role is recognizing your limits during your day. Consider:

–Which tasks and responsibilities feel like a struggle? –What times during the day do you feel the greatest amount of stress? –When do you find yourself running late, losing your temper, scrambling for a solution? –What do you find yourself dreading or hating? –When do you find yourself in a tug-of-war with your caree? –What times of the day are tough for your caree? –When during the day does your worry about your caree intensify?

When you understand your limits, you can look for help to manage what’s beyond your limits. Understanding your limits will ensure you, your caree and your family will stay in a safe place.

Everyone has limits. What are yours?

2. What are your caree’s limits? Understanding your caree’s limits will help schedule your day and organize your help. Limits will change regularly, so be aware of change in tolerance and fatigue. Not sure how much help to schedule? Add more than you think. You can never have too much.

3. Continue regular breaks. Consider annual weekly breaks–investigate short-term respite stays in your community’s nursing homes. Or, ask relatives to take over the caregiving role for a week or two every year or every two years. Continue to take daily, weekly and monthly breaks. Keep up with your own interests and hobbies as best you can. Take time to enjoy the paradise you built in Stage II.

4. Use your Solutions Fund. Make deposits and take withdrawals, using the money for boredom, breaks and back-up plans.

5. Keep up with a support system–a carer’s support group or empathetic and understand family members or friends.

6. Continue to learn about your caree’s illness or condition. What’s next for your caree? Are you up to the next steps in his or her illness?

7. Increase help as your caree declines. Become comfortable with adding more help as more help is needed. You may think, “I’m okay keeping the level of help as it is.” Unfortunately, keeping the level where your caree was rather than where he or she is will hurt both of you. Note the struggles in the day, then work to add help for you and your caree to manage the struggles.

8. Manage the budget as much as you manage the care. As care needs increase, so does the budget. When you caree has funds to pay for about 18 months in a nursing home, then take note of the situation. This is the time to consider nursing home placement, when your caree’s funds will afford the best choices. Hold a family meeting, tour local facilities, consult with professionals, such as a geriatric care manager. You may decide this isn’t the time to decide. That’s okay. It’s important to be aware that sometimes the budget determines the decision on where a caree continues to receive care.

9. Continue writing in both journals—yours and the other about your caree.

10. Forgive yourself for your bad moments and bad days. They will happen. After they do, give yourself a clean slate to start over.

11. Set boundaries which protect: Your Time; Your Values; Your Well-being, Your Priorities; Your Self. Examples of communicating boundaries include:

–“I’m taking a two-hour break after lunch. I have everything that you’ll need set up in the living room. Thank you so much for helping me enjoy this time. I’m so grateful for your support.” –“I’m uncomfortable with the tone of our discussion. Let’s table our talk until tomorrow.” –“I’m booked, so can’t handle that request. Thank you for thinking of me.”

12. Give you and your caree room for your difficult moments and bad days. When you’re having a tough time, simply say: “I’m having a bad day. I’m taking a few minutes for myself.” When it’s your caree’s turn, say, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day. I’m going to step away for a few moments.”

13. An apple a day… What’s your apple in this stage? You may feel tempted to sacrifice your apple in this stage. Your apple can’t be sacrificed. Your apple is what makes you feel normal, like yourself. Keep it.

Stage 4: The Pragmatic Carer

Who are you?

You’ve been through it all: hospital admission and discharges; short-term rehab stays in nursing homes; a vast array of community services. You may appear to doubt the advice given by health care professionals; you’ve just been through the health care system long enough to know that sometimes health care professionals may not seem to have your best interest in mind. Some family members and health care professionals worry about your ability to find humor in situations they find offensive. They view your attitude as “calloused” and “uncaring.” Far from it, you have a very practical, very realistic approach toward your caregiving role–and your sense of humor has been a critical tool for your survival. Without your sense of humor, you would have given up a long time ago.

Your Keyword: Welcome

–Welcome the joys of your relationship; –Welcome forgiveness (of yourself, of your caree, of other family members and friends); –Welcome shared activities.

Your Challenge

To gain a greater understanding of yourself and your caree.

Your Purpose

To gain a better understanding of yourself and your caree. You’ve settled into your role and your routine; now is your opportunity to step back and reflect. The first three stages laid the groundwork for this stage, your period of personal growth.

As a “pragmatic carer,” what can you do?

1. Work on finding joy in your relationship with your caree. The biggest joy-killer are your hands-on duties: bathing, dressing, incontinence care. But these duties bring you together, this is your time together. Add some fun to your hands-on care: sing songs, tell jokes, share goals and dreams.  

2. Work on forgiving your caree for past hurts. Resentment toward past wrong and injustices will make your present caregiving role very difficult. Let go of what was and concentrate on making what is healthy and productive. Forgiving your caree is one of the best ways you take care of yourself.  

3. Develop a habit of enjoying shared activities. Develop a routine of time shared as husband-wife, mother-daughter, father-son rather than as just carer and caree. Releasing the roles of carer and caree allows you to enjoy each other.

4. Begin to think about your future. What goals have you yet to achieve? How can you achieve them? How can your caree help you achieve them?

5. An apple a day… What’s your apple in this stage? What helps you to feel good on a daily basis? You may feel like trying something new. That’s good! You can never have too many apples.

Stage 5: The Transitioning Carer

Who are you?

You’ve been caring for a period of time and now can sense the end.

Your Keyword: Allow

–Allow time to mourn and grieve; –Allow remembrances to remain; –Allow reflections of your experiences.

Your Challenge

To stop the “doing” of caregiving and focus on the “being.” You’re used to doing and going. Now, it’s time to simply be with your caree.

Your Purpose

To walk with your caree during his last months and weeks, implementing his or her decisions about end-of-life care that you both discussed during Stage 1 (or as soon as you could). As you both feel the journey end, this is also a time to mourn and grief. And, this stage is about loving and feeling good about the shared journey. You also will begin to question and worry about the next chapter in your life.

As a “transitioning carer,” what can you do?

1. Use your best judgment as to when you take breaks. You now have a limited amount of time to spend with your caree. Trust your gut and spend as much time as feels right for you. When others encourage you to take a break and you know it’s not the right time, let them know: “Time with my caree is my priority. I appreciate your concern. I’m okay.”

2. Allow yourself time to mourn and grieve. You are experiencing tremendous losses. You’ll feel it.

3. Remember your caree. You don’t have to give away clothes or remove pictures–until you want to. When family and friends seem hesitant to talk about your caree (they worry they will upset you), assure them that sharing memories, laughs and stories brings you great comfort.

4. Reflect back on your caregiving responsibilities and decisions with pride. Find comfort in knowing that you did the best you could.

5. Review your journal. How are you different today than you were on the day you first started writing in your journal? How will you use this experience to enhance your future relationships?

6. An apple a day… What’s your apple in this stage? You may feel that an apple in this stage is unnecessary. Take an apple. It’s what keeps you feeling like you. 7. After Giving. Connect with other former family carers adjusting to a life after caregiving.

Stage 6: The Godspeed Carer

Who are you?

Your role as carer ended more than two years ago. You find yourself compelled to make a difference in the lives of other carers. You share information readily with carers in the earlier stages, you start a business dedicated to helping family carers or you find a job in which you assist family carers. And, you treasure each relationship you have in your life, recognizing that each day, and your health, should never be taken for granted.

Your Keyword: Treasure

–Treasure your dreams; –Treasure your challenges which led to your opportunities and new skills; –Treasure your opportunities to share lessons learned; –Treasure memories of your caree.

Your Challenge

To integrate your former role as a carer into your new life

Your Purpose

To implement your lessons learned from your role as carer, from your caree and from your family members and friends. During this stage, which can last as long you wish, even your lifetime, you reap the benefits of your efforts.

As a “Godspeed Carer,” what can you do?

1. Follow your dreams. Make your goals a reality.

2. Family carers will look to you as a mentor and leader. Allow carers in earlier stages the same freedom to stumble and steady themselves that you had. Share your experiences with expectant carers, freshman carers, entrenched carers and pragmatic carers. They can learn from you!

3. Treasure the memories you have of your caree. Continue to remember your caree regularly through rituals, such as enjoying an ice cream cone in her honor on her birthday, or by planting trees in his honor. Reading and reviewing your diary will be a great way to remember. Of course, your best memorial to your caree’s memory is a life you build for yourself filled with healthy relationships, productive careers and joy and laughter.

4. An apple a day… Your apples kept you going. Now, consider how you’ll use them to create your future. How did your apples change? How did you change? What would you like to try next? Go for it. The world is your apple.

5. After Giving. Connect with other former family carers adjusting to a life after caregiving.

Last Updated on September 9, 2022