Self Preservation: Don’t Lose Your Identity
Caregiving affects everyone—the caregiver, the loved one receiving care, and the entire family. There are changes in family dynamics, duties, roles, and identities.
While you, as the caregiver, are assuming new duties and tasks, your loved one is potentially losing those duties and the roles that are attached to their identities.
Recognizing these changes is a good start to enhancing the caregiving experience and will lead to better communication and appreciation of one another.
Whenever someone requires care, responsibilities change and roles often change with them. According to Nancy Mace in The 36-Hour Day, responsibilities are the jobs each person performs in the family. Roles, while connected to the duties one performs, also include who you are, how you are seen, and what is expected of you. Specifically, they define your place in the family.
Individuals who can no longer perform the duties connected to their roles may feel a sense of loss and confusion about who they are and what they can contribute to the family. For the caregiver and the family who assumes these roles, it is important to be sensitive to these changes and feelings.
Though your help may be needed, it is often very hard for an aging loved one to accept this. For self-reliant individuals, especially those who have spent their lives taking care of others, this symbolizes a loss of independence. In some cases this loss brings about feelings of helplessness and uselessness. Many elders admit that they feel a stigma associated with needing help because they believe that needing help is a sign of weakness.
In addition to this loss of independence, your loved one may be feeling a loss of control. Where he once was able to come and go freely from his home or run errands whenever he liked, he is now forced to live by the schedule of his caregiver.
Here are some suggestions to help you better understand the experience of your loved one as well as ways to communicate and empower him:
- Put yourself in his shoes. Take the time to consider how you would feel with the adjustments and changes he may be feeling.
- Make sure that your loved one has duties and responsibilities that he can perform and carry out. Although it may take longer for the elder to dress himself or clean dishes, feeling useful and needed is important for everyone. Given the opportunity, he may even discover a new hobby or interest.
- Remember that your role is to help your loved one maintain control of his life, not for you to control it. The duties and roles you perform should always be an aide to the elder, not a representation of control. Avoid treating the elder as a child. Though his abilities may be limited, by confusing roles of parent/child and lessening your respect, you risk seriously damaging the elder’s self-esteem and your relationship.
- Remind the elder that he is still a valuable member of the family. Show your loved one how much you appreciate who he is, not just what he does or what he did in the past. Perhaps he can no longer do what he used to, but encourage him to explore other duties or roles. For some this may be a focus on grandparenting, but it can even be a simple daily task like keeping up with the weather or news.
For more information on this topic, please call us now at (561) 588-4545. Thanks for watching today’s Wednesday Workshop and we’ll see you again next week!