Are You a Controlling Caregiver or an In-Charge Caregiver?

October 1, 2009 at 5:57 pm 3 comments

How can you be a caregiver and NOT be controlling? Doesn’t it just sort of come with the territory?

Caregiving is in large part, being a manager and being a manager means you’re in charge. As a caregiver, you have many balls to juggle–you’re part-nurse, part-cook, part-psychologist, part-driver…the list goes on. You have many people you have to manage in order to create a cohesive team of care for your loved one: home health aides, perhaps willing family members, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and when you start into hospice you get a whole slew of people to weave into your life–a nurse, a chaplain, and more aides.

So is it bad thing to be controlling? Most people cringe at the word, but someone’s got to be in charge–and to me, I like calling it being “in-charge” instead of controlling because face it, there’s so little we can control even when we think we are.

Have you ever been in a stressful/dangerous situation and someone stood up with quiet confidence and said, “Don’t worry, I’m in charge, and I’ll make sure everything turns out okay.” Whew. You let out a sigh of relief. You listen, ask what he/she plans to do, and you expect that you might be given something to do to help. You’re now a part of a team, a part of the solution.

That’s what you can exude as a caregiver when you accept your role with quiet confidence. You’re in charge. You’re in search of solutions, and it’s your role to assign jobs that all work together for the greater good. Do you have your act together? Sometimes, sometimes not, but you know that people need to feel safe, and you’re willing to accept the responsibility of making sure that happens. Yes, lots can and will go wrong, and some of it you might even get blamed for, but you’re brave enough and strong enough, and you know it’s necessary, so you step up.

Caregiving is about stepping up.

Three Keys to Becoming an In-Charge Caregiver:

  • Accept who you are–the “in-charge” person. Make a plan. Divvy out the work.
  • Keep the big picture in mind at all times. You can’t afford to get bogged down with the myriad of details. You have a goal–to help your loved one walk again, to help their pain be manageable, to get some extra care so you can take a well-needed break. Break down each of your smaller goals and make sure they fit into the overall picture.
  • Be willing to be the bad guy. If a health aid isn’t a good fit, then you have to be the one to let her/him go–and then find another one. If your dad doesn’t want to do his therapy, but he really needs to, then let him be mad at you all afternoon–pout, sulk, give you the silent treatment, but he still has to go to therapy because it helps him walk and heal faster. Being in-charge isn’t going to win you the Miss Congeniality crown and sash, but you will feel good about doing the right thing–even if you’re the only one who seems to notice.

Being in-charge isn’t about throwing your weight around and being a bully. It’s about doing the right thing. It’s allowing others to relax and trust–even when you’ve got your own concerns. The good thing about being in-charge is that you learn a lot about yourself, how you react under pressure, about your resiliency and what kind of person you really are. Some days, you miss the mark–we all do. But other days, you look in the mirror and you’re amazed at who’s staring back at you.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Beth Patterson, MA, LPC  |  October 1, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Wonderful advice! I often tell clients that, as paradoxical as it may seem, the best way to be in control is to “go with the flow”. I would be happy to be a resource to caregivers out there, based on my work in hospice supporting family and professional caregivers, as well as my work as a therapist. It’s important that while you’re supporting others, you need to take care of yourself — it’s like they say on airplanes: put on your oxygen mask first before you try to help the person sitting next to you!

  • 2. AT  |  October 8, 2009 at 12:28 am

    This is great advice. Having a system to your days is so important, but flexibility is what will keep you sane. It’s hard to know each morning how the day will turn out, but the beauty of each new day is that it’s full of possibility to make good choices as a caregiver. Being flexibile will keep your brain active, helping you to stay in charge.

  • 3. Beth Patterson, MA, LPC  |  October 9, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    very true! creating rituals for self-care can also be useful., as well as knowing your “triggers” regarding others’ difficulties. For me, a warm lavender bath after a difficult day is my way to de-stress, create a boundary and also gives me time to reflect on and have gratitude for the gift of being able to give.


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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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