Photo by Matthias Zomer

Caregivers travel a winding and unique road that is sometimes hard to understand unless they have crossed the same route.

Caregivers travel a winding and unique road that is sometimes hard to understand unless they have PREVIOUSLY crossed the same route. While it can bring pure joy to be able to care for a loved one in need, the journey itself presents unique concerns and issues for both the caregiver and the care recipient.

This article is written to help make a caregiver’s journey in that realm meaningful. Here, you will find out the condensed six (6) steps of a caregiver’s journey. These steps will help ensure you stay on the right track, survive your caregiving experience, and cherish the time you can give.

The 6 Stages of a Caregiver’s Journey

Stage 1: The Expectant Caregiver. In this stage, the focus is “Shortly, I may help an aging loved one.” You and your loved one recognize that you may soon begin your caregiving role, and both of you take steps to prepare for that process moving forward. This is the time to have the care recipient’s affairs in order. For one, a visit with an attorney to set up necessary affairs, consult with physicians and discuss with your loved one the kind and level of care he/she may need, depending on the situation. Together, you prepare for every possible circumstance.

Stage 2: The Freshman Caregiver. “I am beginning to help an aging relative” is the focus of this step. As this step evolves, it provides a sneak preview of the future. You may begin by running errands and offering meals. At this point, you should fully educate yourself on all areas of your loved one’s condition and decide how you can help. Join ONLINE or SCHEDULED support groups specific to the illness you are dealing with or providing care in general. These support groups provide a needed outlet and help you learn how to take care of yourself and your care recipient properly. SOCIAL MEDIA SITES PROVIDE MANY OPTIONS.

Stage 3: The Entrenched Caregiver. Here, the contention is on “I am helping.” You are solidly grounded in all aspects of caring for a loved one, which is a significant part of depicting who you are. Your feelings may be bittersweet. You are happy you can help, but you sometimes cannot help but wonder, “why me?” You are physically and mentally exhausted. During this stage, re-evaluation is critical. THE primary focus should be receiving help from others. Take responsibility breaks so you can rejuvenate and continue on a healthy caregiving path. Establish a routine for you and your loved one and determine boundaries of care with which the two of you are comfortable. Do accept help from friends and family or hire a care provider. Lean heavily on support groups at this time. Sharing your feelings with others will aid in maintaining your focus and your sanity.

Stage 4: The Pragmatic Caregiver. “I am still helping an aging relative” is the prime focus. You have been giving care for quite some time, and your goal now is to look at yourself and ask, “Who am I?” Let yourself forgive your loved one for past grievances and find ways to add fun to your days by engaging in other activities, singing songs, and finding humor in your current situation. You may involve your loved one in helping you determine your dreams and goals and start thinking about your future.

Stage 5: The Transitioning Caregiver. This is a reflection on “My role is changing.” Your caregiver duties are ending, maybe because you can no longer adequately care for your loved one, or THEY MAY BE NEARING THE END OF LIFE. Allow yourself to mourn and ponder on the memories you have shared. Openly discussing these feelings with your loved one will make performing the final stages of care easier for both of you.

Stage 6: The Godspeed Caregiver. Finally, the mindset is “My caregiving has ended.” Your caregiving days have been over for several years, and your life is ahead of you, so become a caregiving advocate. By being an advocate, you can offer advice, write about your experience, head up support groups, or merely be the go-to person for other friends and family who may be taking off on caregiving. You are now moving forward in your life and can look back on your caregiving years with sweet memories and happy thoughts of the one you cared for.

Parting Words

The caregiver’s journey is unique and full of emotional ups and downs. The above steps allow you to experience caregiving at its worst and at its best. On the other hand, a book about how to become a caregiver, entitled One Caregiver’s Journey by Eleanor Gaccetta, is a must-read. Eleanor’s memoir will tug at your heart and make you laugh as she shares her experiences providing 24/7 care to her mother for 9 ½ years until her mother’s death at age 102. The book is easy to read and honestly written and provides suggestions and information that all caregivers can utilize. Gaccetta wrote the book over a long time, and it is a snapshot of the reality of the stages, many challenges, and changes caregivers face over time. It is a caregiver’s blueprint. Reading this book will make you feel that you are in the author’s living room, and she is telling her story and offering paramount advice and information. Most of all, Eleanor’s advice and words let you know that you will move on through it and enjoy your life to its fullest after your caregiving days end.

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