'I Am Not a Caregiver' & 'I Am Coping'

April 30, 2015

 

Would you say that coping well is important?

 

Coping is a skill that allows us to salad toss our everyday busy lives. For many of us, the daily salad mix includes family members helping family members in this sandwich generation caregiving culture. As the zoomers continue to age, there are and will be more adult children not only caring for their own children…they will also be caring for their parents in varying degrees while also holding a job outside of the home. A number of older adults are and will be caring for their chronically ill spouses while also working outside of the home and/or having healthcare issues of their own. Under these circumstances, the ability to cope is vital for our well-being as well as for those who are relying on us. The question is: are we really coping or do we say we are coping when in reality we are not coping well at all? The answer can be found for those caring for others by truthfully self-assessing.using tools such as The Modified Caregiver Strain Index , a scale for those helping older adults.

 

Many who are assisting family members with their daily living from chauffeuring, taking over finances to bathing and dressing would not obtain access to these assessment tools because they are not identifying as ‘caregivers’. For instance, I was recently having a casual conversation with a woman in a social setting and we came to speak about her mother. She told me her mother had dementia and was living with her.

I then said 'so you are a caregiver'. 

She replied, 'no, I am not a caregiver.' 

I proceeded to explain the 'caregiver' role she was assuming in attending to her mother's needs - even though there was paid help coming into the home..

 

By my observation, this woman is not alone. There are numerous individuals who do not or choose not to identify as 'caregivers'. This was evident to me while working with family members as a community outreach social worker in dementia care. Working in healthcare, I acknowledge, unlike family members, that the doctors, nurses, case managers, social workers, PSWs, etc. refer to the family members as ‘caregivers’. It is part of the healthcare jargon.

 

Is it such a bad thing for family members helping family members to call themselves ‘caregivers’?  It is not a bad thing when using the term ‘caregiver’ legitimizes and validates the role, acknowledging it as a valuable job. Coming together as a supportive 'family caregiver' group makes it easier for collective advocacy, perhaps for funding. Identifying with the role can also be empowering, acknowledging ourselves, the family members as an integral part of the healthcare team. It is also not a bad thing acknowledging the work we do as ‘caregivers’, assessing how much time and  energy it takes and how it influences our daily ability to cope.

 

It appears that Acknowledging,Assessing,Assisting by identifying as a 'caregiver' could be helpful for validation, inclusion, advocacy, support and coping ability..

 

Something else to bear in mind.... There are varied degrees of care-giving and when it comes to self-care, everyone is a care-giver. In order for you to be able to assess your level of caregiving and/or if you are in fact a caregiver, I devised a questionnaire for guidance purposes consisting of 11 questions. Based on your answers, you may fall under the heading of 'a light, middle or heavy weight family caregiver™.' You may also fall under not being a caregiver at all. The results are immediately following the questionnaire. Access to the questionnaire is on caregivingwithstrength.com.

 

So, how have you been coping lately? Would you benefit from more self-awareness in enhancing your coping skills?

 

Keep in mind, it is a strength, not a weakness to obtain assistance when needed.

Y o u  A r e  N o t  A l o n e !

www.eleanorsilverberg.com

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Updated October 2019

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