Counselors Empowering Caregivers of Older Adults


I went to a great workshop in Lisle, IL last weekend, all about how to help caregivers of older adults.  Caregiving is becoming more and more common as babyboomers age, and I have had many clients who find themselves in caregiving roles, although it is not always their main issue.

It was an all day workshop, and we covered information about

  • statistics and demographics of who caregivers tend to be
  • how they contribute to their care recipients
  • positive aspects of caregiving
  • the financial, physical, emotional, social, and developmental impacts of caregiving
  • assessing the extent of these impacts
  • the stages of caregiving
  • five broad approaches to helping caregivers
  • and cultural perspectives on caregiving

The presenters were excellent, and there was so much useful information, I couldn’t do it justice in this short article.  Let me just mention two areas stood out to me the most.

Caregiving is not all negative

First, it struck me just how meaningful caregiving can be, especially if the caregiver is doing it out of a sense of genuine caring rather than obligation, if they have social support, and if they focus on being practical in their approach to the difficulties associated with being a caregiver.  Indeed, research has found that far more caregivers report feeling loved and appreciated (over 90%) than report feeling depressed or overwhelmed (less than 30%).

A counselor can help in many ways

Second, it is clear that the demands of caregiving can overtax a caregiver’s coping abilities.  When this is the case, counseling can help a caregiver in a number of ways.

Counseling can help caregivers overcome their barriers to adapting to the situation.  It can help them understand the importance of maintain their “identity” by continuing to work as long as possible, and by maintaining their interests and hobbies.  Counseling can help clients explore the spiritual aspects of caregiving, and to deal with a spiritual or existential crisis if one exists.  Clients can get relief from depression through cognitive behavioral therapy and other common treatments.  The counselor can facilitate family meetings, process “ambiguous loss,” and explore long standing issues that may be influencing the caregiving.  Lastly, a counselor can help you access information about caregiving, about the care-recipient’s illness, about local resources (like support groups, respite or a geriatric case manager), and about legal or financial information.

This workshop gave me a lot to think about and information about several books that I’d like to read.  I’m excited about now getting to apply what I’ve learned.

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