10 Principles of Caregiving

10 Principles of Caregiving

I’ve been privileged to hear and re-hear caregiver’s stories, their joys and their laments, their successes and failures, and their hopes and their sadness. I’ve sat by bedsides while the physician delivered the terrible news of the diagnosis.  And right there with me stood the spouse (or adult child, sister or brother, other family member, or friend) – now shaking – who had no real idea that they had just been enlisted into the ranks of caregiving with no preparation, training, or support at all.  They felt alone, scared, and emotionally overwhelmed.

I believe that caregiving can be one of the most instructive endeavors that you can ever enter; it presents you with a curriculum of personal growth and development unlike any other. 

Caregiving is sometimes stern, frequently frustrating, occasionally overwhelming, consistently demanding, and always challenging. Yet, on the other hand, caregiving brings many gifts: you will never learn patience like you will in the caregiving role, or kindness, or compassion, or peace, or wisdom, or simplicity, or courage like caregiving can teach it

I have so much empathy for caregivers – these armies of people pressed into service in the sometimes messy and always taxing trenches of caregiving with little or no warning and even less assistance.  They had no idea that they were forfeiting so much at that very moment, that their lives would never be the same again, nor that they would be forced to not only confront illness, but also forced to face themselves in ways both challenging and demanding they’ve not dreamed of before. 

The book , Caregiving from your Spiritual Strengths, is dedicated to all those who give care to persons with illness or other issues.  These devoted folks, regardless of where and how they serve, are truly the unsung soldiers and heroes of the illness wars.

Caregivers are found in many different settings:

  • Spouses, family members (caring for a family member presents some special challenges), and friends.
  • In-home caregivers (volunteer or paid) from agencies, churches, community organizations, and the like.
  • The many different caregivers in the medical setting… RNs, LPNs, nursing assistants, and all the many other professionals who regularly give care to persons with illness.

While each of these roles is different, they all have the same thread of heart care that is quite similar.  I’ve learned that the caregiving principles that undergird the work of all caregivers, regardless of the setting where they serve, are almost identical. 

Illness is daunting, and caring for a person suffering with illness can be equally daunting – but in different ways.  Caregivers feel pain, but it is pain of a different sort than what care receivers feel.  Caregivers move through successive stages just as their care receiver moves through them.

There is a symbiotic relationship between caregiver and care receiver – as one “moves,” so does the other; as one’s energy, and stamina, and perseverance ebbs and flows, so does the other.  How one is feeling dramatically affects the other.  While this is true for most caregiving relationships, the medical caregiving role is intensified to a point to make it identifiably different because of the aura of morbidity (and even mortality) that surrounds the medical environment.

The relationship between the caregiver and the care receiver is at the core of success.  The relationship is almost sacred in that its quality determines so much of what will or will not emerge in the healing process. This relationship brings challenges at every turn; and the caregiver needs three things to successfully meet these challenges: 1) information, 2) support, and 3) a new perspective that the caregiving role has much to teach. 

My book, Caregiving from your Spiritual Strengths, is the sixth book I’ve written on caregiving.  This book is a compilation of all of the many years of investigating, researching, and teaching I’ve had the honor to carry out while serving caregivers.  But more than that, this book is a distillation of what I have heard directly from caregivers in private counseling sessions and from innumerable hours facilitating literally dozens of caregiver support groups. 

From among all these experiences, I’ve gleaned ten principles that I believe capture the heart and soul of the caregiving call.  These ten are the necessary and sufficient conditions for success in caregiving… embrace these ten, learn them, and practice them, and you will not only be doing all you can for your care receiver, you will be elevating the caregiving role into a personal vocation of immense and long-lasting value for you. 

Richard P. Johnson