Improving the Family Caregiving Relationship

grandmaToday families have become the foundation of long-term care for older persons living in the community. Studies have shown that as many as 80 percent of older adults rely solely on family members for care while less than 10 percent receive help from paid service providers. The vast majority of family caregivers, (80 percent), are middle-aged females and a wife over the age of 65 is most likely to serve as the caregiver for an impaired, older spouse living at home, followed by daughters over the age of 50, caring for a father. When these family members are not available, siblings, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren often step in to provide primary assistance.

Yet similar to the only partially joking statement that babies do not come with instruction manuals, neither do older individuals being cared for by family members. Additionally, while parenting classes now abound, classes in how to care for elderly parents or relatives, at the same time as children, spouses, and the caretaker themselves, are practically non-existent. Often, this situation becomes serious enough to severely effect a loving marital or familial relationship due to caregiver exhaustion and hopelessness over the chance of improvement in their circumstances. This can result in positive relationships deteriorating into an unhappy and unhealthy situation for everyone involved.

The possibility that these types of difficulties may develop is critical to consider before a family member may need such care. This is important for a number of reasons, one of the most significant being that without prior thought and planning, the effects of a caregiver situation on both parties can be devastating.

The accumulated findings speak to the reality of caring for a loved one:

Negative Patterns Exhibited by Caregivers

• Physical and emotional burnout is extremely common, causing the caregiver to be unable to care for themselves, or provide even minimal care for others.

• Burnout commonly leads to feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and ill, until caregivers can no longer see beyond their own problems and become unable to view things from their loved one’s perspective.

• Burnout frequently results in the caretaker becoming unaware of making comments or behaving in ways that could hurt the one for whom they’re caring.

• Family caregivers frequently develop unrecognized resentment due to lost independence and the inability to exert control over their lives further eroding the quality of care they are able to provide.

Negative Patterns Exhibited by the Individual Receiving Care

• The person receiving care will often begin to respond to the care provider in a manner similar to how the provider is acting towards them.

• Resentment frequently develops in the individual receiving care resulting from the belief they’re being blamed for the situation in which they now find themselves

• Anger often results in those being cared for due to frustration over the loss of independence

Despite the fact that both parties in a care giving relationship often experience the same difficulties often resulting from similar factors, they are unable to recognize their unhappiness in the other, preventing the ability to improve the relationship by imparting these emotions. Instead, this growing cycle of negativity, eclipses the love, attachment, and shared history that exists.

Causes of Problems Within the Care Giver Relationship

While much research to date on this topic is anecdotal, it appears that one of the main causes of caregiver burnout, and rebound resentment in the one receiving care is the deliberate numbing of feelings. This is generally viewed as an attempt by both individuals to avoid pain or distress, by closing off their emotions from each other.

In care giving relationships involving seniors, especially if they also have a debilitating illness or disability, there will be stress, difficult days, and unpredictable problems. When individuals knowingly or more often unknowingly, shut each other out, and refuse to relate except around care taking tasks, this often turns into interactions characterized by mutual criticism, belittling, accusations, and sometimes aggression.

It can be difficult for someone to see how they contribute to a problematic relationship, if they only perceive how the other individual is unfair and hurtful. Each person believes they have been wronged, and eventually one feels the need to stand up for themselves, lashing out at the other. The other individual will commonly then retaliate, setting up an escalating cycle of harmful interactions that can result, in extreme cases in abuse or neglect. When isolated as individuals in care giving situations often are it is even easier for them to become blind to the other’s point of view.

Recreating the Loving Relationship

Developing the ability to see each other as equals within the family framework, and recognizing and acknowledging each other’s strengths, can help re-establish a normal, mutually caring relationship. This can help re-institute feelings of security, comfort, and trust, which neither may have consciously realized were missing. Once trust has been restored, it is possible to begin having open discussions of how each individual perceives the situation as well as how they feel their role has been defined and how they’d prefer it is defined in the future.

This process of sharing thoughts and feelings can help each person better understand the other, helping them to develop a different way to view and react to the stress of the situation instead of blaming each other. This will ultimately lead to a growing cycle of positive communication and interactions.

Sometimes, people have been socialized to believe that the need to discuss problems and feelings means that something is wrong, weak or lacking in them, and in such cases, they may need help in overcoming these roadblocks. This help can come from a number of avenues such as friends, other family members, community, support groups, clergy, or counseling. While at first, it may feel uncomfortable sharing problems with others, most come to believe the benefits of rebuilding a positive, loving relationship among family members or potentially developing a connection that is even stronger than before is worth the initial discomfort.

The continued growth of such a relationship can help each individual to see the other for who they truly are, a complete person not someone exclusively defined by the position of caretaker or care recipient. Forming an appreciation and respect for the meaningful, significant, “human” aspects of each other, will lead to the discovery of the wealth of wonderful qualities that exist within both individuals.

Concluding Thoughts

Though these steps will not entirely get rid of the very real stress involved in care taking relationships, this growing connection will provide a new found ability to better deal with the negative effects of stress in a healthier, more positive manner. While it may seem hard to change long existing ways of thinking and acting, over time, with continued effort, it will begin to feel more natural.

This can only happen, however, if those in care giving relationships are committed to building enduring relationships by working to make each other feel valued, listened to, understood, respected, cared about, and, most importantly, appreciated as someone with something important to contribute inside and outside the care giving relationship.

Increase Your Luck and Achieve Your Goals

Using Life’s Unpredictable Moments to Increase Your Luck and Achieve Your Goals

27130EDURGB1Susan wanted to attend graduate school in psychology but as a single mother, lacked the money to pay. She worked several jobs when her mother could stay with the baby save some money monthly towards school. She was certain she’d earn her degree when the time was right.

One afternoon, stuck in traffic, Susan stopped in front of a local University she had considered attending until learning they had no psychology graduate program. She noticed a new building with a sign in front that she read with increasing excitement. The building housed the school’s new psychology graduate program. Without thinking about it, she turned into the campus

While looking around a woman approached Susan, introducing herself as the Graduate Studies Director Susan discussed her aspirations. Susan explained why she hadn’t yet been able to fulfill her goal The Director was impressed with Susan’s drive, attitude and determination to obtain her degree. Seeking strong students for the new program, startup funds were available for full scholarships. Before Susan left, she’d completed the application, called three individuals for references, and ordered her transcript On the way out, the Director showed her the free campus daycare. Susan now teaches at the University that helped her fulfill her dream, while her 6 year old daughter attends the campus free kindergarten.

Was Susan simply lucky? She wouldn’t have learned about the program and opportunities had she not investigated, despite lacking the funds to attend graduate school. Always keeping an open mind, Susan looked into every possibility, even those that seemed impossible, believing anything could happen if you attended to every potential opportunity that came your way.

Our perceptions of what is possible influence our thoughts, which influence our emotions and actions. Those who perceive the world as a place where anything is attainable, fill their minds with thoughts of a positive future, feel confident and secure, and are satisfied with their current reality. They quickly forget what doesn’t work out and look for the next opportunity. Individuals with these characteristics have been shown to be happier and more likely to fulfill their dreams than those who wait for chance to change their lives.

Characteristics Common to Lucky People

Most people define luck as something dependent on chance or fate, something over which they have no control. Yet those who believe they can make their own luck have certain personality characteristics that have been shown to predict the number of ideal opportunities a person encounters over time. These individuals have personality styles defined by enthusiasm, creativity, flexibility, excitement over new opportunities, preference for novelty, good people skills and possessing a wide variety of interests and skills.

Individuals with this personality style see life as a gift and take advantage of each prospect they perceive Their eagerness, passion and potential inspire others and they are skillful at using their social skills to help them reach their goals. They live according to their inner values which helps direct their intuition which they feel comfortable acting upon. Their wide range of interests aids in the development of numerous skills. These characteristics predispose individuals with this personality style to perceive opportunities, determine how best to take advantage of them, and convince others they are capable of achieving whatever is expected with their unique skill set.

Adjust your traits, Improve Your Luck

While personality is thought to be predetermined there are ways to develop some of the traits characteristic of those perceived as lucky.

Open mindedness is the primary factor that allows individuals to explore new ways of thinking and behaving to achieve a lucky lifestyle When changing habits there’s a learning curve which includes failure especially in the beginning. Thus, having others who support you and are positive about your new perspective on life will help you retain your optimism.

When you have a strong support network in place try to adopt new characteristics. Beginning with your perceptions, work on viewing each unexpected situation as a possibility for reaching your goal. Think in a creative manner to generate as many strategies for taking advantage of the situation Tap into your creativity to explore new interests and develop new skills Maintain optimistic thoughts and try to view failure as moving you one step closer toward your goal. Expand you social network and establish connections with as many people as possible since this will increase the likelihood of meeting someone who offers you an opportunity leading to the fulfillment of you goal.

At first these strategies may seem difficult depending on your personality style However, the more you practice these patterns, the easier they will become until they are automatic It will become natural for you to perceive your world optimistically, think in ways that reinforce the idea that every opportunity has the potential for growth. This new world view will likely result in improved mood and changes in your behavior such that you are more spontaneous when faced with unexpected situations or when meeting new people.

When you begin to work on establishing this life plan and strive to improve in each area, over time the different aspects will become integrated into your natural personality style. One day you will suddenly realize you are living a lucky life. The ability to increase your luck is possible if you’re willing to alter your perceptions, thoughts and behaviors and use the state of your emotions as cues to your success, While some may have this “lucky” personality, few fully take advantage of these characteristics to improve their overall quality of life. Yet, if you leave your life course to chance alone, you are likely to find luck elusive.