Why Care Coaching Was Life Changing for Me as a Caregiver
by Linda Chamberlain
I have been a social worker for over 40 years, and an elder law attorney for 30 years. I became a hands-on caregiver a little over ten years ago, first for my parents and then my in-laws. In this area, I have a wealth of knowledge and experience, I know and understand the resources available. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional toll it took on me, my husband, my family, and even my friends.
All families experience relationship troubles, unhealthy behaviors, struggles with how to manage stress, and family discord. It is often very painful and sometimes embarrassing. While friends and family members may be very supportive or claim to have similar issues and want to share with you what helped them, eventually they get sick of hearing you talk about it. I have many wonderful friends who are very supportive of me and too kind and loving to share with me the behaviors and reactions I need to change. My Care Coach was able to guide me through and recognize my enabling behavior and provide specific recommendations on how to manage situations and circumstances I thought were in my control.
What finally got me to the point of seeking care coaching?
First, someone I trusted made the recommendation that I should consider care coaching. We were struggling with my parents refusing help. My parents were calling me for everything. I was cooking their daily meals, doing their laundry, paying their bills, and managing their medications. I was working full time and still had a child at home. If there was a day I skipped stopping by to see them we got a call that they needed some sort of help. My Dad was able to take care of himself but was struggling to take care of my Mom. He didn’t want to spend his money on help in the home. And my Mom was struggling with taking care of herself, keeping herself clean, and constantly fighting depression.
In the meantime, I lost all of my social life, quit cooking and started buying to-go food (not healthy choices). I gave up exercise, packed on 20 pounds, and was basically a miserable person. However, I was doing what I thought was the right thing to do — everything!
How did Care Coaching help me?
The first thing my Care Coach did was listen. She did not immediately offer advice on services available to my parents. Instead, she paid attention to how I was feeling and understood my frustrations. She helped me understand almost immediately how much control I was trying to exercise over my parents and how I let their behavior affect me. I was doing more and trying harder to protect my parents. And, as their problems became more serious I continued to become more upset and react more intensely.
My Care Coach helped me understand I was not responsible for my parents’ choices. She helped me understand my parents were responsible for themselves and that I could not solve problems that were not mine to solve. She guided me through the process of talking with my parents and allowing them to make their own decisions. My Care Coach helped me accept my parents’ choices and coached me on how to take better care of myself. She provided me with specific communication skills to ensure I was allowing my parents to make their own decisions and not taking on the responsibility for all of their care. The advice she provided helped me be a great caregiver without giving up my life.
Little do we know when we try to help someone because we love them that we may actually be trying to control their behaviors. Care Coaching helped me recognize how to help without being controlling. I will be forever grateful.