Assumptions About the Caregivers

by | May 17, 2024 | Real Life

Ellen Patnaude, Patnaude Coaching

Assumptions are pervasive. So much so that we don’t even notice that we’re making them half the time. If you’ve been around me for a while now, this is not a new idea. But it’s only recently that I started realizing how many assumptions there are when it comes to caregiving. We make assumptions about the caregivers, about what it must be like, about ourselves while in that role, and probably a lot more. Since this is the week that the new book hit the Amazon (and other online retailer) shelves, I thought we should talk about it.

About the Caregivers

Before I did it, I assumed you could continue on with your life while caregiving. I didn’t realize how all consuming it could be. I figured it was like raising kids–there are naps and earlier bedtimes and breaks. You just gotta “set it up right.”

Wow, I was naive.

I also assumed that those smiles plastered on caregivers’ faces were genuine. Since I’ve always been one to speak my mind (more than I should at times, to be sure), I figured if things were not fine, they’d say so.

Incorrect again.

One more. And this is a big one. Since we’ve collectively been caregiving for our elders (and spouses) for, well, FOREVER, I assumed there would be a wider variety of resources out there. I thought I’d find someone else who had struggled in the same ways I was struggling. Who didn’t have a great relationship with the person they were now caring for. Who had better advice than, “Be more patient.”

Wrong once more.

About Ourselves

Even more dangerous than the assumptions we might make about caregiving are the ones we make about ourselves. There seem to be all kinds of questions that surface, for starters.

Am I doing it right?

Am I doing enough?

Why can’t I be more patient?

There also seems to be a stigma around talking about what we’re going through. I’ve had countless conversations by now with people I’ve known in a professional setting for years. Caregiving has never come up. And yet, it consumes our lives in so many ways. As soon as I start talking about this new book and why I wrote it, the stories come tumbling out. It’s like we’ve collectively decided we shouldn’t be talking about this stuff. 

But why?

Is it because we think it has no place in the workplace conversation? Some sort of separation of work and life? Tell that to someone who is caregiving while managing a full-time job. And if that’s true, why do we speak about our kids and spouses and weekend plans so freely?

Is it because we think we’re the only one going through it? I promise you you’re absolutely not.

Is it because we have this shame narrative hanging over us that makes us feel like we’re just supposed to be able to figure it out on our own?  Mm-hmm.

What can we do?

This stigma only changes if we change it. Normalize conversations about what affects our ability to show up at work fully present. Create more compassionate workplaces by making it safe for people to talk about what they’re going through. Form Employee Resource Groups or whatever your organization calls them to support caregivers. Bring in speakers to educate and spread awareness. And tell your story. Honestly and uncensored. You’re not alone.

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen E. Patnaude has been coaching, training, and developing people to achieve higher levels of success in a professional capacity since 1997.

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