Elderly care models

Family caregivers generally earn their job title in one of two ways. The first is what I call the "sneak up mode." The second is "crisis mode."

Sneak-Up Mode

For me, caregiving began with an elderly neighbor who needed some assistance. This "assistance" turned into a five-year stint of elder care, closely followed by the ever increasing needs of six of my own family members. For all but one of my elders – my dad whose failed brain surgery sent him into severe dementia – care needs gradually increased.

I can clearly remember the day when I finally woke up to the fact that I had a full-time job as a caregiver, even though, technically, I wasn't "working" at the time. Had I had more family caregivers to communicate with, I may have realized earlier how much my caregiver role had slowly overtaken my life.

Would the knowledge have helped me understand that I needed to take better care of myself? I don't know. Hindsight is interesting, but doesn't change the past. My caregiving years started at a time when family caregiving wasn't big news. You just did what you did, and there wasn't a great deal of support – official or casual.

Crisis Mode

Since I was already heavily involved in family caregiving by the time my dad's surgery sent him into instant dementia, the event, emotionally devastating as it was, didn't change my caregiving situation all that much. Dad's terrible outcome from the surgery just immersed me deeper into my role.

Many people, however, are just living their lives – working their jobs, raising their children and visiting relatively healthy parents from time to time – when, bam! Out of the blue, Dad has a stroke. He's hospitalized. He survives. However, he's partially paralyzed, will need months of therapy, and will not likely ever be the same again. Caregivers experiencing these crisis events hit the graduate level of caregiving before they even have a chance to do undergraduate study.

No matter how you entered into your caregiving role, you will have to make changes in your life. There is a considerable amount of help these days.

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