Monday, January 14, 2008

The Seven Psychospiritual Dimensions of Family Caregiving

The following is an excerpt from The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving:

Last week I had three phone calls from caregivers in almost identical situations. They were all adult children in their 50s who had moved a demented parent into their home to better manage their care. The patients had similar problems and the caregivers were in the same income bracket and had similar levels of support. However, the cases couldn’t be more different. One person was in crisis mode, and desperately spent her time putting out fires the other caregivers did not even detect. Another was outwardly calm and was clear-headedly collecting resources so she could be the most loving caregiver she could while keeping her life intact. The third was deeply depressed. She wound up caregiving because everyone else in her family expected her to do it.

Family caregiving isn’t a simple process of determining what a patient needs and providing it. Long standing personal issues come to the surface and make the process much more complicated. Over the years I’ve noticed distinct categories of difficulty which I now think of as separate but related realms of personal development. The levels are:

1. Physical Survival
2. Emotional Safety
3. Self-esteem & Personal Power
4. Love
5. Communication
6. Perception & Imagination
7. Spiritual Belief & Purpose

A caregiver lost in basic survival never talks to me about love or issues of spiritual morality whereas those who have their physical needs well in hand often do. On the other hand, there are caregivers who only speak to me about love and spiritual purpose while their physical health suffers and their finances are in a shambles. I’ve come to believe that physical, emotional, and spiritual health depend on maintaining balance in all these areas of life.

In my next few blog entries I’ll be exploring caregiving through the lens of each of these seven dimensions.

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