Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Caregiver Wednesday- Strategies for Coping with Change

Slow change.

You've had a diagnosis of Alzheimer's for your mother. There were changes that led you to the decision to take her to the doctor, so you had suspected, but it was shocking to hear. You needed to make changes. You entered the new role of caregiver, and began to do things like taking her shopping (she could no longer drive) looking after her medications and worrying about how well she was eating. But under a good doctor's care, and with correct medications, she was now stable. You found new ways to relate to her in your new role, and learned to enjoy each day with her. If you had to hear the same story many times, it was a small price to pay for having her with you and generally healthy.

Then there was a change overnight.

You mother had a stroke, and is no longer able to live alone. Suddenly, major changes are occurring. You must make decisions. You barely know the questions to ask.

Whether change is gradual or instant, it is often difficult to deal with.

Here are a few suggestions. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but sometimes just one or two thoughts can be a lifeline in a stressful time.

1) Journal. If you are going through change in your caregiving journey, there will be stress, grieving, fear and a lot of other negative emotions. It helps to write them out. Try to identify what you are feeling and why. Look for ways to turn some of the negatives around. Grieve your losses, but find ways to enjoy your loved one as they are now (or in some cases, say good-bye in a way that will bring closure.)

2) Get support. Find a support group if you haven't already. Phone a friend and cry (literally, if you need to) on their shoulder. You can't walk this road alone. You need someone who will listen and hold you up. Some days, they may need to prop you up.

3) Research. The old cliche that knowledge is power is still true. The more you know about what is going on, the better you can intelligently talk to doctors and other medical professionals. You are less likely to get surprises from a medical standpoint when you know what to expect. Find out what medications are recommended, what side effects they have, what other treatments help, what kind of equipment might be helpful--there is a lot to know. Make notes. If nothing else, you will be doing something concrete, which combats that vulnerable feeling of helplessness.

4) Break the tasks down. After I became a widow, I was overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork involved in settling an estate. Although I wasn't a caregiver at that point (except at work) I experienced that feeling many caregivers have in a changing situation. I was overwhelmed with the many tasks that needed to be done, and completed while I was in a vulnerable emotional state. I decided that I would only do two hard things a day. Two phone calls, two pieces of paperwork or two "cleaning out" tasks. When they were done, I wouldn't even decide what I was going to do tomorrow. I didn't want to think about it. Those boundaries kept me sane through those difficult months.

Are you dealing with change in your caregiving situation? What helps?


  1. I am overwhelmed as a new widow. I like your "two hard things a day" suggestion. It's worth a try....

  2. Oh Evelyn, I hear you! The paperwork, the phone calls, the goes on and on, and it ripps your heart out. When I was going through that, I wrote an article that might be helpful to you. If you want to send me a message at, I will send it to you.

  3. aging parentCaregiver Space. The work we do at The Caregiver Space stems from our commitment to ensuring caregivers feel seen, heard and most of all supported.