The Stages of
It can help to
recognize there is no tidy, single, all-encompassing definition for
“caregiver.” Rather, it’s a job that includes multiple
responsibilities which vary not only from family to family, and not
only within one family, but within the particular relationship you
share with your spouse, aging parent or other loved one.
The caregiver you are today may not be the caregiver
you were six months ago because the care your family member needs –
the care you need to provide – has changed. In the same way, the
caregiver you are now may not be the caregiver you will be in six
months. If your loved one’s health improves, you may be less
involved. If it worsens, you may be more involved.
complicating this, once you and your family member have experienced
a particular facet of the relationship and then moved to another, it
doesn’t mean you will not return to that first one for a time. Even
so, generally, the caregiving role is a progressive one as your
loved one’s needs increase. And, again, generally, the role of a
caregiver follows a particular pattern which can be identified. In
other words, within the spectrum of caregiving, it’s possible to
place just about every caregiver, including you . . . today.
These are the stages researchers have identified,
although – it’s important to note -- they don’t necessarily follow
caregiver sees himself or herself as a helper, beginning to lend a
hand with a limited number of tasks but doesn’t identify himself or
herself as a “caregiver.”
Those caregiving tasks have increased to the point the caregiver
realizes and says “I am a caregiver” The caregiver now defines the
role for himself or herself or continues to “just do it.”
Studying and researching.
Adopting the role of a student, the caregiver wants to know and
understand a loved one’s condition or illness, including its
symptoms and prognosis, and begins to looks for resources for stress
management and for informal support, such as family and friends.
Acting like a caregiver.
The caregiver is actually doing the work, increasing the number of
tasks and their frequency, learning new skills and improving on
others, and as his or her family member’s health deteriorates,
begins to feel the stress.
The caregivers sees the impact of the situation: the emotional
strain for both the family member and the caregiver, the member’s
resistance to accepting help, and the caregiver’s own exhaustion,
anxiety, and anger.
Getting help. The
caregiver acknowledges the need for help. The spirituality of the
role of caregiving becomes more apparent and the caregiver
incorporates prayer and the awareness of God into daily activities.
The caregiver locates and accepts formal support from social
services and expands informal help to include the extended family,
more friends, and the parish community.
Managing the role of caregiver.
With that added help, the caregiver begins to be more proactive in
his or her approach to the role. The caregiver may decide on a “game
plan,” learn about and use new coping strategies, and begin to feel
more in control and more confident.
Preparing for the end of caregiving:
The caregiver understands that the role of caregiving will end with
the death of his or her loved one. In many ways the caregiver begins
to grieve the loss of both his or her “once-healthy beloved” and the
person needing care that family member has become. This is the time
the caregiver most clearly sees the true value of caregiving and the
love and respect he or she has for the one who has needed care.
Moving on after death.
The caregiver experiences shock, even if death was expected, and
grieves the loss of his or her loved one. There may be a period of
empty time in the day, a feeling of “now what do I do?”. This is a
good time to rest and reminisce. Acceptance and appreciation of the
experience will gradually come.
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