How to Survive Caregiving – The Caring Generation®

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The Caring Generation® – Episode 112 November 17, 2021. In this episode, How to Survive Caregiving, caregiving expert Pamela D Wilson practical steps for family caregivers to identify four behavior patterns that make caregiving relationships challenging and how to rise above difficulty.    

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How to Survive Caregiving

Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation, with host Pamela D. Wilson, is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.

 How Caregivers Survive

Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel

This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, speaker, consultant, and guardian of The Caring Generation®. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring. Giving us permission to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving, and everything in between. It’s no surprise that needing care or becoming a caregiver changes everything. The Caring Generation is here to guide you along the journey to let you know that you’re not alone.

You are in exactly the right place to share stories, learn about caregiving programs and resources to help you and your loved one’s plan for what’s ahead. Invite your aging parents, spouses, family, and friends to listen to the show each week. If you have a question or an idea for a future program, share your idea with me by responding to my social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linked In, or YouTube.

Behavior Patterns Affect Caregiving Relationships

Today, we are talking about four behavior patterns that can make caregiving interactions challenging and have you ask how to survive caregiving. The behaviors of caregivers have as much of an effect on relationships as the behaviors of aging parents on family caregivers and with healthcare providers. While more empathy is sometimes given to the person who needs care, caregivers deserve an equal amount of compassion and empathy for the work and time they contribute to care situations.

Let’s begin by talking about emotional insecurities and how these affect relationships. If you are a caregiver or a care receiver who is insecure, you may be more emotionally sensitive or reactive than other people. Past or present experiences of rejection, loneliness, social anxiety, negative self-beliefs, or having critical people in your life contribute to feeling insecure.

When we look at all personal relationships, gaining insights into how our habits and behaviors affect others is important to creating positive relationships. If you wonder how to survive caregiving and aren’t sure if you are insecure, ask yourself these questions.

Are You Insecure?

Do you have difficulty making decisions? Are you overly critical of yourself or others? Do you hesitate to share your feelings? Are you uncomfortable in social situations? Are you trustworthy and reliable? Do you trust other people? Do you have mutually satisfying relationships founded on honest and open communication?  I know, a lot of questions.

Feelings of insecurity can lead to placing your needs below others because of a desire to be overly nice or worry excessively about what others think.  On the other hand, care receivers who become dependent on caregivers can feel more insecure because they rely on others for help.

Think about how you might feel if you had to depend on someone to drive you everywhere, bring you groceries and help you do personal activities like bathe or dress? You might feel that you have little or no control over your life because you depend on others.

This feeling of dependency can translate to feelings of frustration, anger, and resentment – similar to caregiver’s experiences. Positive care relationships have a delicate balance of helping but not helping too much. How to survive caregiving means that if you are the caregiver, you should avoid taking over the life of a child, spouse, or aging parent.

Begin by having conversations about the balance of give and take and completing tasks. Who does what? What work or support MUST the caregiver provide? What things can the caregiver still do for him or herself? What things can the care receiver still do?

The Importance of Ongoing Care Conversations

A large part of moving past insecurity for the caregiver and the care receiver is to have ongoing conversations that are realistic about care needs and changing situations. Now is the time if you have not created a care plan on paper that outlines needs and expectations.

Feelings of insecurity often arise from worrying about what will happen next because you may not have a plan for that next unexpected event. When you have a workable plan, you won’t have to rush around in crises reacting to every situation that happens. You will know what to do. Let’s talk about behaviors that show up around being disagreeable – that apply to caregivers and care receivers but  show up in different ways.

How Being Disagreeable Affects Care

I want to share a story about a client of mine that may give you a better understanding of how changes in routine or feeling out of control can show up as being disagreeable or refusing care. A good friend of a gentleman who had some help in his home but needed more support because of a change in health contacted me.

The first meeting that I had scheduled to meet with the friend and this client was canceled. The client did not want anybody interfering in his life. The friend felt helpless to do anything but didn’t want to push the issue.

One week later, the friend called me. The gentleman was in the emergency room at a local hospital and needed help. The friend asked me to go to the hospital. The hospital staff refused to allow the man to return home without a plan. Unfortunately, this was a repeat hospitalization.

This gentleman had been in the hospital twice before for the same issue. Documentation in his chart confirmed that he did not follow through with medical recommendations.

Healthcare Mandatory Reporting Risks for Challenging Behaviors

Most consumers or patients don’t realize that information about care refusals, refusing, or not following through with medical recommendations – that information is documented. It becomes a permanent part of your medical record—or your parent’s medical record—that hospitals, doctors, and other providers read.

I received the call and went to meet the client at the hospital emergency room. He was understandably upset about being there.

He didn’t understand the degree to which hospital staff could influence his care and become involved in his life. This means mean that hospital staff, doctors, healthcare providers, and others are mandatory reporters when they believe that a person isn’t making good decisions about health or safety.

According to many state laws, mandatory reporters must make a report to the police, who usually involve adult protective services to complete an investigation. That is a topic for another podcast.

However, my goal in meeting with this gentleman was to provide options of what it would take for him to return home, not return to the hospital, follow medical recommendations, and accept more care in his home so that his health and physical abilities would remain stable.

Because of my experience as a care manager, I spoke with the hospital staff about a care plan so the gentleman could return home. They agreed to make a plan for his release that evening. Afterward, I followed through to make sure that he had the care and support that he needed. I helped him for 2-3 years until he passed away on hospice in his home, which was his wish.

The Balance Between Control and Getting What You Want

This gentleman, like many older adults, wanted control over his life. He was retired Air Force, well-educated. He also retired from the school system, where he taught political science and history.  He was knowledgeable. But, he didn’t know anything about working with the healthcare system and all of the services and resources available to help him live in his home—which was all he wanted.

He didn’t want anyone telling him what to do. He wanted to make his own decisions. Fortunately, he had a good friend who helped him find me. Many care receivers desire the same thing, but they may not go about getting what they want in the right way.

So what happens? The healthcare system notes that a patient is difficult, non-compliant, and refuses care in a chart. Chart notes mean that it will be more difficult for this person to receive medical treatment unless an advocate is involved because the system views this care receiver as a problem. In the case of my client, he was viewed as non-compliant, argumentative, and disagreeable.

I actually found him quite pleasant. When healthcare staff attempted to intimidate him, he pushed back. The gap between getting what he wanted—a care plan and someone to make it happen—was me.  Family caregivers find themselves in similar positions of being disagreeable.

Behavior Patterns of Disagreeable People

Behaviors that you might notice from disagreeable people may be interpersonal conflict and poor relationships with others. In addition, disagreeable people are usually less willing to cooperate and work with others.

They typically have low levels of emotional intelligence, the ability to judge the reactions and responses of others, and regulate and manage their own emotions. Do you see how managing emotions and relationships is a repeated topic for how to survive caregiving?

Anyone who closes gaps in these two areas will be more successful in many areas of life in addition to caregiving. Because as we all know, you are a caregiver and something else. A mother, father, sister, brother, a teacher, or other life roles.

Common Themes of Insecurity and Denial

Let’s talk about behaviors surrounding denial for a moment specific to how to survive caregiving. Caregivers and care receivers experience denial about health care needs, safety, money, and many other issues.

Working through denial combines with working through insecurities. What irrational beliefs exist about a present situation? Do you believe an aging parent’s health isn’t going to worsen even though mom or dad has many health issues and constantly see doctors?

Wishful thinking may be comforting. But when problems arise, you want to be clear-headed about making the right decisions. If you or a parent or spouse are in denial, your judgment may be faulty.

Are You in Denial?

How do you know if you are in denial? Ask these questions. Are you fully aware of the consequences of a situation? Your parent’s health? Your health? Not taking medications? What you’ll do when there isn’t money to pay for care? Do you avoid talking about difficult situations? Do you avoid the issue because it makes you feel anxious?

If you refuse to accept information that is upsetting or uncomfortable, you may be in denial. We’ll talk more about behaviors related to how to survive caregiving after this break.

The Caring Generation is not limited by time zone or location—caregivers worldwide can listen any time of day. Visit my website to check out my caregiver course online that helps you make a care plan for aging parents. The course is Taking Care of Elderly Parents: Stay at Home and Beyond. Included are 30 hours of webinars and other information.

You will learn practical steps for taking care of elderly parents, spouses, and others. I always say participating in the course is like binge-watching a Netflix series where you learn to prepare for everything you never expected, and you can always go back and watch it again. This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiver expert, consultant, and author on the Caring Generation. Stay with me. I’ll be right back.



This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving speaker, expert, and advocate on The Caring Generation program for caregivers and aging adults. Whether you are twenty or 100 years old, you’re in exactly the right place to learn about caregiver support programs, health, well-being, and other resources to help you and your loved ones plan for what’s ahead.

survive caregivingIf you’re not sure how to talk to your children about caregiving issues, or if you’ve tried to talk to your aging parents and that didn’t go so well, let me start the conversation for you. Share The Caring Generation podcasts with family and friends. There are over 110 episodes.

Visit my website, to find resources for caregivers, my caregiving library, blog, online courses, transcripts of these podcasts, and how to schedule a 1:1 eldercare consultation with me by telephone or video call.

We’re back with more thoughts about how to survive caregiving. Let’s talk about recognizing behavior patterns so that you know how to survive caregiving . I’ll also share steps that you can take if you notice any of these behavior patterns in your day-to-day relationships.

Before the break, we were talking about denial. If you haven’t listened to The Caring Generation podcast called The Hard Truths About Caring for Aging Parents, check it out to learn more tips about dealing directly with caregiving challenges.

Are You Manipulative?

Let’s talk about the behavior I call pushing your buttons, sometimes also known as manipulation. How might manipulation show up in caregiving relationships? Let me give a few examples that apply to the caregiver and the care receiver. Simply, it can be that thing that makes your blood pressure rise or makes you want to scream.

For example, a parent refusing care, a sibling avoiding responsibility, someone shifting blame, refusing to discuss an issue, putting another person on the defensive because of intimidating or insulting behavior, What about playing the victim, or doubting yourself because of what another person says or does.  Manipulation is a lot of behaviors and feelings all mixed up that don’t feel good.

Manipulation can make you feel angry or resentful. If you are manipulating others, you might be pushing or tricking another person into doing something they don’t want to do. Now I want to say that there is a positive side to the last point—being pushed to do something you don’t want to do.

Manipulative Versus Good for You Behavior

If that thing is not harmful, risky, or dangerous, it may be good for you, Then the behavior causing you to agree may not be manipulation but encouragement or positive reinforcement with a reward for repeated positive behaviors.

It’s like saying, let’s walk for 2 miles to get some fresh air, and I’ll give you a foot massage when we get home. Who would refuse that? Manipulation that is thought to be negative involves pressuring another person do something that is not mutually beneficial or that there will be no reciprocity.

We’ve talked about many behaviors and feelings: intimidation, disagreeableness, denial,  and manipulation. There are a variety of ways to survive caregiving if your relationship has any of these components.

Gain Confidence to Survive Caregiving

Let’s begin with gaining confidence. When the caregiver and the care receiver are confident about the quality of their relationship and confident in their abilities to manage health and day-to-day issues, negative behaviors cease to be a roadblock.

Likewise, when you develop a care plan that includes care expectations, including the who, where, and how care will be paid for, less is left to the imagination. With a care plan, you focus more on facts versus emotions that unrealistic fears can easily sway.

Let’s talk about emotional support for a moment. Family support is good, but there’s nothing like a friend or having access to an online caregiver support group where you can hear many different perspectives. Both the caregiver and the care receiver benefit from having emotional support outside of the family.

Having emotional support is critical to surviving caregiving ups and downs. It’s the idea of having a person to call when you’re having a bad day or you have something happy to share. Or being part of an online caregiver support group where you can share your thoughts and feelings at 2 am or 6 pm, knowing that someone will respond.

Avoid Comparisons

How to survive caregiving means avoiding comparisons to others. Comparisons can be unbalanced. Many caregivers compare themselves to non-caregivers. Comparing yourself to people you have little in common with may result in stark differences and feelings of resentment and hopelessness.

One of the most common feelings that caregivers experience is abandonment by family members and others. I’m sure many of you listening can empathize with this situation.

It sounds like this, “I feel exhausted and overwhelmed. There is no time for me. None of my family members offer to help. The time when I’m not at my paid job is totally devoted to caring for aging parents, a spouse, grandparents. Unless I find someone to come to the house, I can’t leave. I’m worried about my mental and physical health and don’t know how much longer I can do this. I want my life back, minus all caregiving responsibilities, but I’m not sure how to make that happen.”

Identify Problematic Behavior Patterns

Part of why caregivers find themselves in situations where they’re trying to survive caregiving is that they didn’t recognize the importance of identifying behavior patterns and managing relationships with the person who needs care and family members at the beginning of the care situation. The result is that many caregivers feel alone and abandoned over time. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

So, let’s return to solutions for how to survive caregiving. Another part of gaining confidence is to rid yourself of limiting beliefs. This happens when the caregiver’s world shrinks. You give up your friends, social activities, going to school, sometimes you even give up a job.

Making the situation more problematic is that the world of the care receiver – aging parents, spouses, grandparents—has also shrunk. So you have two people trying to manage a situation who have limited information and limited knowledge about how to solve a problem that keeps growing.

If you’ve tried, you may realize that searching for reliable information can feel impossible when you don’t know where to search. Many caregivers give up and lose confidence until some disaster happens that forces them to make decisions.

Balance Fears With Facts

The best advice I can give you is to balance your fears with facts.  Become as educated as possible about all aspects of health and care situations. Ask the difficult questions that may have answers you don’t want to hear.

Avoid denial. Become agreeable and believe that you will find hope, help, and support. It’s  here. As we discussed earlier, creating a care plan sets the foundation for building confidence that you have a plan if disaster strikes.

When you have a care plan, you will be better prepared for unexpected situations. Another essential aspect of managing the behaviors that cause you to wonder if you will survive caregiving is to address negative self-talk.

Caregiving stress can make your mind go to unhappy or dark places and stay there. The person you care for may be negative because they don’t feel well or they feel hopeless.

Initiate Change to Feel More In Control

As the caregiver, it’s up to you to find a way to raise your mind and thoughts to maintain a positive mindset even when situations appear bleak. It’s up to you to be the leader in your care situation because the person you care for may be in poor health and may not have the energy or the mental ability to solve the problems you’re facing.

When you become organized, mentally determined, and gain control over caregiving’s emotional traps, you will feel more positive. Your loved one will benefit from your efforts even if difficult decisions have to be made because you will be in a positive space to make good decisions based on facts and analysis.

If you are in a situation of planning for yourself, aging parents, or a loved one and you’re not sure what to do, schedule a 1:1 eldercare consultation with me. Visit my website, click on how I help, next on family caregivers, and then eldercare consultation.

Thank you so much for joining me on The Caring Generation – the only program of its kind connecting caregivers and aging adults worldwide to talk about caregiving, well-being, health, and everything in between. Invite your family and friends, co-workers, and everyone you know to listen each week.  I’m Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, eldercare consultant, and speaker. I look forward to being with you again soon. God bless you all. Sleep well tonight. Have a fabulous day tomorrow and a great week until we are here together again.

how caregivers surviveAnnouncer: Tune in each week for The Caring Generation with host Pamela D Wilson. Come join the conversation and see how Pamela can provide solutions and peace of mind for everyone here on Pamela D Wilson’s The Caring Generation.





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About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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