What’s Your Caregiving Style?

An exciting proposition just landed in your inbox: A dear friend has an extra ticket to a hit Broadway show next week—are you able to join her as her guest?

You reply:

A. “Yes!” without a moment’s hesitation.
B. “Sounds like fun! But let me check my schedule and get back to you.”
C. “No, sorry, I couldn’t possibly.”

What does your answer say about your approach to caregiving?

If you answered…

A: You’re a Delegator

You don’t let caregiving responsibilities get in the way of a full life. You’ve always been there for your mom, but you know that you have to make time for yourself to give her the best care you can—and as long as her needs are properly met, you’re flexible with details like who fills in and how. You’ve lined up siblings, friends, and outside support to help—you’ve even got a neighbor cooking a meal one night a week so you can meet friends for dinner! You’re thriving in your day job and managing to squeeze in yoga to help reduce stress. And you aren’t the only one who’s benefiting: The house is buzzing with activity, which keeps mom’s spirits up.

B: You’re an Organizer

You run a tight ship, and you don’t step outside the door until every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed. But you know it’s important to give yourself a break, and after some trial and error, you’ve found someone you can trust to care for mom in your place. She’s responsible, she follows your instructions to the letter, and she has become an indispensable second-in-command. You’re accomplishing your caregiving duties and enjoying yourself, imagine that!

C: You’re a Perfectionist

It’s been months since you’ve done anything for yourself—and it’s starting to show. You’re fatigued, depressed, coming down with recurrent colds, and even though your roots are showing, you can’t muster up the energy to care. Besides, you owe it to your mom to be there for her, and no one can care for her the way you can. You can’t seem to let go of the reins, but you’re beginning to see the cracks in your caregiving operation and you’re starting to worry about keeping it together. The sensible course of action would be to enlist some help, but you don’t even know where to begin.

If option C sounds most like you, here are some tips that may help you bring balance to your situation:

  • Sit down and list all of your caregiving tasks, then divide the tasks into two categories: things only you can do and things others can help you with.
  • Approach friends, family members, and neighbors for help with those tasks you feel comfortable delegating. You might find they are eager to pitch in. Schedule time to talk to them about what you need and to explain your instructions, or have them spend an hour or two watching you, so they have a clear understanding of the task at hand.
  • Seek out outside assistance: Look into caregiving services in your community, such as senior centers, adult day care centers, home-delivered meals, transportation services, and respite care.
  • Establish a connection, whether it’s a social or civic organization, a religious or support group, or simply a collection of friends. A strong network of support will prevent you from being isolated and give you the strength you need to step back into the groove of your life.

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