Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Caregiving: On Our Own Journey

I was helping to lead a training on activities for people with dementia the other day. Speech-language pathologist Kathryn Kilpatrick from Communication Connection was one of the presenters. She had a lot of great advice on how to communicate with someone with dementia which I will be writing about later. However, one of the comments she made really stuck with me as it addresses a problem I see all the time in families trying to care for a loved one.

Kathryn said that each caregiver is on their own journey through this process. What she meant was that we will all handle the illness of our family member differently, and that's ok. Often what happens in families, and were I see the most difficulty created for them, is family members judging what kind or how much caregiving other people in the family are doing. 

There are many paths on this journey. Photo by Jeff Norris

For example, I was with a client once who was telling me about her "ungrateful" child who had not come to visit her in about a year. I noticed that while I think Miss. Mary is the sweetest little old lady ever, I really have no idea how she treated or still does interact with her child. While I could be fully present for Miss. Mary and help her through this issue, I also knew I could not judge her child. While we may not agree with what they are doing, unless they are putting their loved one in physical or emotional harm, or creating an unsafe environment, we should let people help as they are able.

Even in families that are close, no one really knows the relationship each child had and has with their parent so you can't expect everyone to to provide care in the same way. Some people can't handle daily amounts of time with their loved one. Some are only comfortable with the person one-on-one because it may be detrimental to be with other family members. Some people just are not comfortable with doing things like bathing, taking someone to the bathroom, or changing adult diapers.

We also need to recognize on this path that people may have more or less energy for the journey at different times. Sometimes a caregiver you may need to pull back on what they are doing because it becomes too overwhealming, and that's ok. You can hire more help or rearrange the care schedule so that everyone gets a break at times. That is why in hospice, respite care is offered to the family every six weeks.

In my work as a minister, I see far too many families fighting over the caregiving, each one expecting the other to do this or that, and missing the fact that everyone is on their own journey through this. 


Rev. Katie


  1. It's important that as caregivers, you still try your best to keep fit and healthy as you need to keep your strength and stamina up.

  2. I bet medical assistant training schools would cringe at how these families in your scenarios take their "caregiving" job through.

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  4. I admire people who choose the path of care giving. I admire how they deal with stress when they provide care to elders who prefer terminal in home care service.