Supporting Senior Caregivers In Keeping Their Sense of Self

Older Caregivers Need Encouragement 

Older adults who are caregivers, whether they are spouse or friend, can find themselves in a “cloak of invisibility” as they lose touch with their identity.

There are ways to help senior citizens who are taking care of a loved one. At the end of a long day, they may be weary and overburdened. Some would say overwhelmed. Yet no matter what the issues older caregivers deal with, it is vital for a senior caregiver to retain a sense of self. It may take some support and planning, but it can be done.

Challenges Faced by Senior Caregivers

When the senior caregiver is a spouse or otherwise clearly identified with the patient, people will sometimes accost the caregiver with questions. They may ask, “How is _______? (the patient) or “Tell me how things are going with ____________? (the patient) and other similar questions and comments. More and more conversations become only about the patient. Although done with kindness and caring, the senior caregiver begins to feel invisible.

No doubt the patient needs attention and the kindness of others. However, these acts of caring can lead to an unexpected and unplanned consequence. Harry Potter would call it a “cloak of invisibility.” The caregiver begins to find the sense of self slipping away. Support groups and maintaining social connections including caregiver conferences may aid in dealing with this troubling phenomenon. Friends in church or the community can offer to help at times in order to provide respite for the senior caregiver.

Early in the process of a senior’s long-term illness, it is quite appropriate to focus mainly on the patient. However, there needs to be a point where the adrenalin driven energy slows down and a routine sets in which includes maintaining the health of the caregiver. Some doctors contend that caregivers are at risk for debilitating illness which can make them unable to care for the original patient. This would underscore the necessity of achieving balance and health for this person who is caring for a senior who is ill.

Senior Caregivers Letting Go While Holding On

One of the greatest challenges of a senior’s caregiving journey is to hold on to what must be done while letting go of other things. This may involve holding on to daily routines for the patient while revising social schedules and the usual habits of daily living. It could be making end of life plans while holding on to some pleasantness in lifestyle. Or it could show up as giving the best care possible while accepting certain decisions the patient makes like eating some foods which may not be nutritious but are deal-breakers as to living contentedly. This letting go while holding on seems to be controlling what must be done while continuing to give the patient a degree of control of their own life and illness. Quite a challenge!

One way for friends and family to  help senior caregivers keep their sense of selfis to also ask “How are you doing with the sudden changes in your life?” or similar questions which include the caregiver in the content of the conversation. Such inquiring about the caregiver too helps prevent that person from feeling invisible. Keeping connected with others is a vital “vitamin for the soul” of the senior caregiver. Listening and encouraging can go a long way toward helping the caregiver maintain health and emotional identity. This sense of self enables this older adult, whose plate is already full of tasks, to find that breath of fresh air which helps keep seniors and others going in hard times.

Seek Help and Respite Options

Papa is finding ways to marry cutting edge technology for scheduling, payments, and online security with the age-old yet essential desire of seniors everywhere for time, attention, and kind helpfulness. 

This may be a good day to reach out for support in the caregiving journey.