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The Fluctuating Caregiver Temperature

The Fluctuating Caregiver Temperature


L. T. Force, Ph.D.


What do we know about caregiving? We know it comes in all sizes and comes at different times in one’s can be short-term or long-term. Regardless of how, when or why it arrives....we do know one can be stressful both for the Caregiver and the Carereceiver.

Years ago, I wrote a piece on Caregiving and titled it: “Different Styles of Caregiving: Heroes, Martyrs and Snakes”. Here, I described the different styles of caregiving that I had witnessed in my practice in working with families caring for a family member with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The “Heroes” provided the care that was required and did it with no need to be recognized for the sacrifices and efforts they were making. The “Martyrs” provided the care required - and let everybody know they were making these sacrifices in providing care. The “Snakes”, they just slithered away....they were not present at responsibility presented at all.

However, as I began to think about these caregiving styles - I realized there was another group that I needed to identify. So, I rewrote the piece and titled it: “Different Styles of Caregiving: Heroes, Martyrs, Snakes and the Devastated”. The “Devastated” were also a group of caregivers that were not present or demonstrating any responsibility. However, they were not present because they were “Snakes”.... they were not present because they couldn’t bear witness to the demise that was occurring to their family member - to their loved one - it was too overwhelming for them.

Caregiving is not for the weak of heart. As you know, if you have experienced this role, there are many times during the day (or through the night) that stress is your partner. However, what you may not know is.....there is also a body of research evidence pointing to the conclusion that the experience of caregiving - actually makes one stronger and more resilient. However, I can guarantee you - you may not feel that way - if you are actually in the midst of providing caregiving - I really think this perspective is best understood, valued and appreciated in retrospect.

I come to the discussion about caregiving not only as an educator and practitioner - but also from a personal experience. I am the youngest of three Irish Brothers. My middle brother passed away 32 years ago. My older brother and myself and our families were present for my Mother who passed away 5 years ago at the age of 97. During the latter half of her life (from about age 90 to 97) we needed to integrate formal care to support her needs. Upon her death, as a way of writing myself through grief - i published a book titled: The Detoxing of Caregivers: Key Tips for Survival, Strength and Patience:

In this book I speak of strategies, resources and tools that can be of help as you are navigating the caregiving world. I also place emphasis on a very important point: The most important person that you need to care yourself”. This point cannot be minimized - because as I tell my students: “You cannot be present for someone else....if you are not present for yourself”.

So, what do we know? As stated, Caregiving comes in different sizes, different times and different durations. However, as I reflect on this role - the one term that comes to mind is:

“Caregiver Temperature”. And what do I mean by that term? I mean, what we see - either as practitioners or on a personal level - people arrive at this role - and carry themselves individually and uniquely. You see them, (and more importantly you know your own temperature). Are you up-close and personal....are you on fire....are you warm and engaging....are you distant....are you cold and disconnected and frigid?. Are these temperature zones fleeting and fluctuating at different times of the day....or is it a fixed temperature point? You know who you are - and so does the person who is receiving the care.....

The takeaway.....two things: it’s Ok to have fluctuating: “Caregiving Temperature Zones” - it’s part of the human condition and second: Breathe in and Breathe out....everything passes.”


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