Light of Gray

Elder Care Expertise

7 Habits of Doomed Caregivers

Caregivers are often faced with this dilemma, and the self often loses.

Caregivers are often faced with this dilemma, and the self often loses.

These days, I am reading the powerful Stephen Covey classic “The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People.” The principles outlined make so much sense to me, I feel as if everyone else probably knows them already. But in reality, few embrace proaction and effective living. This knowledge comes, in part, from my membership in the caregiver community.

Family caregivers are some of the nicest, most sincere, hard-working and generous souls on the planet. They are also some of the least healthy, most angry and stressed out people who draw breath. I am often frustrated by the things they say and do, because they are quite clearly destroying themselves. Too many of them die young. Many more injure themselves permanently and wind up needing care (too often without the necessary resources or plans in place to enable their own adequate care).

To drive the point home, I offer the Seven Habits of Doomed Caregivers:

1) Always do exactly what your loved one asks as soon as they ask no matter how unreasonable it might seem. After all, they are your (fill in the blank: mother, father, grandparent, etc.) and they always knew best (at least once upon a time).

2) Do everything yourself. No one else cares enough and nobody can do it all as well as you can, right?

3) Never take a day off. You’re strong. You can handle it. Your loved one can’t go on like this forever, can they? Maybe it just seems like forever.

4) Never ask for help. People will only let you down. If you ask and they say “no,” it will only make things more awkward. If they say “yes,” they won’t do what they promise. Or they’ll make you sorry you asked.

5) Don’t see your doctors. It’s hard enough getting your loved one to their doctors, so you don’t have to go for your own visits. Who has the time? You’ll be fine. Until you aren’t.

6) Don’t vent. People will think you’re crazy. Or weak. Or exaggerating. So hold it in. Until you can’t and explode.

7) Give up doing everything you enjoy in order to spend the maximum amount of time with your loved one and to save as much money as you can. Life is short but seems much longer when you don’t have any fun, ever.

I see people making these terrible decisions all the time. And there’s no pay off, no good reason for it. They usually have options; they just choose the wrong ones out of some misguided idea that the old rules somehow still apply. THEY DON’T.

Once a loved-one becomes ill and you are in charge, TAKE CHARGE. If you are caregiving a parent, once you start paying their bills and taking responsibility for your parent’s life, you must also have AUTHORITY. If mom or dad make unreasonable demands, your life-long programming will compel you to comply. But you must learn to fight the impulse. Because what they think NOW is generally irrelevant. They are failing. They are frightened. They want control. But they are no longer capable. You need to take control. That’s not easy, but it’s essential, for their survival and yours. You are the adult now. You have the experience, strength and perspective to make the best decisions. They no longer do.

And if you need help, ask for help, hire professionals, and educate yourself as to the resources available.

Facing caregiving alone, following the seven habits outlined above, is a recipe for disaster. Please don’t succumb. Life is too short to be squandered on wreckless caregiving. Be more effective and proactive. Develop a team. You have the right to live your own life, on your own terms. It’s a shift you can make happen if you have the will. Use your strength wisely.


What is Grand Family Planning?

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A new way for families to ensure their well-being.


Every family has needs that are constantly changing. The more members, the more complex. And today’s family often consists of grandparents, parents and grandchildren. As children grow and leave home, they sometimes return. Parents age, living much longer than ever before, and start needing help from their adult children. No family exists in a vacuum.

Love and necessity connect us. But law and finance can present us with obstacles. When the time comes, will you be able to advocate for family members who can’t speak for themselves? Who takes responsibility for what? How will expenses be managed? Where is everything? How can you begin to prepare? Can’t this all wait?

Grand Family Planning helps to answer these questions and more. By working with a team of professionals, you will understand what questions need to be asked. Priorities will be set, recommendations will be made, and introductions to all the right strategic partners will bring you a seamless and highly productive experience. Membership in Grand Family Planning will help you to achieve peace of mind through ongoing advice and support, offering integrated services at significant discounts, providing stress relief and direction for your entire family, from grandparents to grandchildren.

If this resonates with you, visit Grand Family Planning to sign up now for notification when we launch in the Fall of 2014 in northern New Jersey. Call 973-962-1880 or email For more ideas, visit

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On Dependency

lifesaverAs our parents become less able, we need to become creative in finding ways to help them. The first response to any kind of enabling technology is usually flat-out rejection. “I don’t need that!” “I’m not that sick!” “I’m not that old!” “What will other people think?” “I can’t afford that!”

This is completely natural. Most people hate change (except for babies, who cry out for it). So many potentially helpful devices frighten people; they’re afraid of developing “a dependency.” And no one wants to be thought of as “old.” There are strategies for dealing with these fears you may find effective.

Cite Meaningful Examples

I knew a woman who was strong and highly independent well into her eighties. A widow for years, she lived on her own with an adult son who had some developmental issues of his own. She had able children with families and grandchildren, a wonderful circle of friends with an active social life, and she retained her cognitive capabilities through the end of her life. At home after a visit from her daughter’s family, she was walking around her backyard in the late afternoon when she tripped and fell. She broke her leg and could not get up. Her screams for help brought neighbors to her aid. She was taken to the hospital for a lengthy interval followed by rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility.

When she got back home, this smart lady got an alert pendant system. So did all of her girlfriends. Because once an able person suffers an emergency like this, it really hits home. Before her accident, everyone thought of these devices as something laughable. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Ha ha! That only happens to other people. When it happens to someone close to you, a new perspective coalesces.

Minimize the Impact

With a little research, more palatable solutions to certain problems may be found. In many cases, the appearance of devices are off-putting to those who could derive their benefits. There are often smaller, more discreet and appealing versions available. While the alternatives may cost a little more, the likelihood that the item will actually be put to use is higher, so the added expense might well be worth it. And in the case of certain systems, like blood glucose monitors for diabetics, Medicare covers, or at least helps to defray a lot of the cost.

At the basis of most resistance is the fear of lost independence. No one wants to be “handicapped” or perceived as disabled, particularly when they’ve enjoyed being able and independent for most of their lives. The beauty of many of these devices is they RESTORE independence. By implementing some of the available tools, older folks can stay in their homes and take care of themselves longer, and more safely. Understanding this concept of “extending independence” will encourage your loved ones to be more accepting of these ideas. And you’ll have more peace of mind, knowing that your folks are struggling less, and hopefully maintaining contact with the outside world should they suffer an accident out of range of a phone or helping ears.

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