Are You Cut Out to Be a Caregiver?

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Dr. James D. Huysman

Caregiving /

The truth is that everyone does not have the tools for providing care for a chronically ill or aging loved one.  There are elements of caregiving that can be taught and learned, but there are certain personality traits that should signal a “proceed with caution” sign when it comes to caregiving.

There is a marked difference between self-knowledge and self-awareness, not only for caregivers but for all people.  Self-knowledge is acquired by examining the results and effects of our thoughts, actions and choices in the context of what ‘was’.  Self-awareness requires that we notice things about ourselves in the context of what ‘is’ now, in present time.

Caregiving requires patience and compassion, constant self-care, time management, the ability to delegate and make informed decisions, flexibility, a positive attitude, and a good measure of confidence and self-esteem.

Attitudes and conditions that make for less-than-perfect candidates are long-held resentment toward the one for which you’d be caring, self-centeredness, untreated trauma, PTSD, unmanaged medical conditions, unsafe living space, undisciplined control issues, tendencies toward verbal or physical abuse and the like.

Having said all that, caregiving can be an experience of healing and reconciliation.

Caregiving is very much about being in the now.  Close family dynamics may allow for a healthy division of duties according to individual abilities.  Depending on the situation, considerations may include the following areas:

  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Financial/Legal Power of Attorney
  • Daily Care
    • Doctor Appointments and Medication Management
    • Social Activities
    • Fall-proofing the living space
    • Meals
  • End-of-life wishes

The ancient Greeks, other civilizations and many scholars have contemplated the phrase “Know Thyself”, and revered the study of self-knowledge. 

Self-awareness is awareness turned inward.  It is the ability to perceive ourselves in the present time.

It is our capacity for introspection that sets us apart from the animal kingdom.

Daniel Goleman, the author of the book Emotional Intelligence, identified self-awareness as being made up of emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence.  In other words, it is all about knowing your emotions, your personal strengths and weaknesses, and a having a strong sense of your own worth.

If you are not cut out for caregiving, it doesn’t make you a bad person.  You have the right to say no.

Categories: Caregiving
About The Author
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James D “Dr. Jamie” Huysman, PsyD, LCSW is well-known for his work fiercely advocating on behalf of family and professional caregivers. From running a national caregiver support foundation, contributing to the AARP Foundation/NASW’s collective “New Guidelines for Caregivers of Older Adults” and co-authoring “Take Your Oxygen First”, to his expert videos on Caregiver Connections for UHC TV, he is a champion of behavioral health and a patient-centered medical culture that is prepared to meet the needs of those they serve.  A popular speaker, he works as VP of Provider Relations and Government Affairs for WellMed Medical Management.

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