Do you remember the day when you realized that you’re a caregiver?
Whether it happened gradually or suddenly, caregiving is bound to impact your life — and your personality is bound to impact your caregiving.
Some people are natural-born caregivers. These folks might be nurses or doctors, teachers or social workers, or police officers — careers where they can apply their helping nature.
However, family caregivers all have different types of personalities. Maybe you have more of a take-charge personality or a timid personality. Or perhaps caregiving has actually started to change how you think and who you are as a person.
There is no one right or better caregiver personality, and they all have their benefits and limitations. Knowing which type of caregiver personality you are can not only help you cope with the stresses and challenges associated with caring for an aging loved one, it will also help you reduce your risk of health problems, both physically and emotionally.
This blog will take a look at five of the most common caregiver personalities.
You have heard about helicopter parents — the generation of overprotective moms and dads who hovered like helicopters around their children. Well, if you cannot stop worrying about your aging parents, you might be a helicopter child.
There are reasons parents and caregivers hover. Common triggers include:
- Fear of dire consequence
- Feelings of anxiety
- Peer pressure from other caregivers
If you’re a Helicopter Helen, you might find yourself worrying about what your parents had for dinner, if they took their medicine, and when they’re going to get their hearing checked.
It’s not that concerns about driving or living at home alone are irrelevant. Your take-care personality can certainly come in handy amidst the hectic and unpredictable world of caregiving. However, there is a fine line between caring and controlling.
Often, parents are fearful of the loss of their autonomy. Instead of thinking about your relationship as one in which you provide care for your mom and dad (i.e., parenting the parent), think about your relationship with your parents as a partnership. As much as you can, emphasize that you are their advocate. How can you partner with your parents to make sure their wishes for end-of-life care are honored?
You cannot live a completely guilt-free life, so there is no such thing as entirely guilt-free caregiving, either. A little guilt can help you be more sensitive and attentive. Think of it as your body’s way of saying, “Pay attention.”
However, some caregivers struggle to keep their feelings of guilt within manageable bounds. If you’re an Obligated Olivia, you might take personal responsibility for everything that goes wrong, burden yourself with a long list of self-imposed “shoulds,” and unrealistically expect to only have positive feelings.
Your care and concern might start from a place of love. However, if you act from a place of undeserved guilt, you might start to grow resentful.
Instead of acting on shoulds — I should run that errand for my mom, I should stop by my dad’s home on the way home from work — do what you want. Set boundaries so that your parent’s expectations are reasonable and so the time you spend together is as meaningful as possible. You won’t feel resentful that another task has been piled on your overflowing to-do list, and your parent will survive.
Remember: It may feel as if you’re the only one who can take care of your loved one properly. Sometimes, moving them to a senior living environment means that you are taking care of them by getting them the level of care and support they need.
There are some people who really struggle with taking up the mantle of caregiving.
If you’re a Hands-Off Harry, you might be in denial that your parents are aging and it just feels easier to ignore a stressful situation, avoid facing facts, and minimize consequences. Maybe your own health or personal or career commitments leave little room for you to take on caregiving responsibilities. Or perhaps you have a difficult relationship with the person in need of care and that’s giving you pause.
If you don’t feel like you have the tools, time, or resources to provide care for a chronically ill or aging loved one, that’s OK. It doesn’t make you a bad person — and it doesn’t mean that you are indifferent or abandoning your loved one, either.
If you deny changes or ignore a difficult situation, it might prevent your loved one from getting the care they need, and the problem can actually get worse: Dad may wreck the car. Mom may fall down. They may become ill.
Instead of ignoring the signals that providing daily hands-on care for an aging loved one isn’t in your wheelhouse, use this self-awareness to actually care for your loved one. Perhaps you visit, arrange other sources of care, handle financial issues, or advocate for your loved one’s well-being. When you do these things, you are providing care — you’re just not committing to more than you can handle.
If you are providing care to an older parent who lives an hour or more away, you are one of roughly 7 million long-distance caregivers in the U.S.
If you’re a Long-Distance Lisa, you’re probably well-aware of the guilt that often haunts long-distance caregivers: Am I visiting, calling, doing enough? Long-distance caregivers often struggle with making sure they understand the needs of the care receiver.
Instead, remind yourself that you’re doing the best that you can. Although you may not be able to visit your loved one regularly, you can call, arrange a video chat, write, or find other personal ways to show you care. From afar, you might:
- Provide emotional support to a primary caregiver
- Coordinate services for a loved one, such as arranging for household help, finding respite care, or exploring senior living options, and follow up to make sure there are no problems
- Manage a loved one’s medical bills or records
- Make yourself available for medical visits
Nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older who they care for while also raising a young child or supporting a grown child. If you find yourself providing financial and emotional support to two generations while also meeting your own needs and saving for retirement, you’re part of the sandwich generation.
If you’re a Part-Time Patti, you might often ask yourself:
- Can I afford to pay for my loved one's medication while supporting my son in college?
- Do I have enough time to finish this presentation for work and make it to my daughter's soccer game after bringing my parent to their physical therapy session?
- How do I find time to take care of myself?
When you take on so many responsibilities, it’s common to become stressed and burnt-out.
Instead, Part-Time Pattis can become full-time family members again if they learn to accept that sometimes professional care is necessary for the safety or comfort of your loved one and/or for you to have some life apart from caregiving.
Although you might be tempted to hire a home care agency to help out when you can’t be there, that doesn’t address social isolation, monotonous mealtimes, and daily chores and housekeeping. Moving your loved one to assisted living protects both of your health and safety and allows them to get the care they need. Once the burden of being a caregiver is set aside, you can rebuild your identity, reclaim your sense of self, and return to being son or daughter again.
Of course, every caregiver’s journey and experiences are different. Even if you are a caregiver by nature, knowing when to ask for help is part of the caregiving journey. If you’re struggling with your responsibilities and the stress they cause, consider exploring your senior living options. Although your loved one might not be ready to move to senior living anytime soon, exploring your options sooner will equip you with the information you need to determine what’s best for you and your family.
Check out our Definitive Guide to Assisted Living Facilities for a clear overview of what assisted living is and how you or a loved one can benefit from it.