Caregiver Advocate Pamela Straker: Four Pivotal Points At The Start Of The Caregiving Journey

WOODBRIDGE, Va., May 23, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Family caregivers now encompass one in five Americans. Sometimes, the more mobile and lucid the loved one being cared for is, the more difficult it can be to work through their caregiving problems.

“Creativity plays a crucial role in caregiving and they key is to think outside the box,” says caregiver advocate Pamela Straker, who holds a doctorate in psychology and is the author of Heroic Caregiver: An Anthology of Lessons on Resilience, Coping and Laughter (2024, Indie Books International)

To research the book Straker solicited caregiver stories from various sources, including those caring for the elderly, dementia and cancer patients, and those with other degenerative diseases. The book is a compilation of real-life stories from real-time caregivers.

“Caregivers may worry about not knowing how to handle every situation, but the truth is, even the most experienced caregivers can be perplexed at times,” says Straker. “Often, our solutions are discovered in the moment.”

Recognized as one of the most prominent voices for caregiver advocacy, Straker is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and leading authority on mental health and wellness.

Leveraging over 20 years as a caregiver and 30 years as a practicing psychologist, Straker influences audiences with her mission to destigmatize mental health conversations. She trains individuals, corporations and organizations worldwide on how to have greater clarity, a new way of thinking and a sustainable plan for assuming the role of a caregiver.

A significant number of family caregivers in the United States are also employed. According to data from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 62% of family caregivers were employed while caring for someone over age 50. According to the Caregiver Action Network, about 14% of family caregivers are in a managerial or executive position within their company. This percentage highlights the significant role that caregivers play not only in their families but also in their professional environments.

For this reason, leaders and their employees must recognize this as a significant issue for their workforce, themselves and, for the good of their companies, develop ways to provide support. It is important for leaders and their employees to understand what caregivers experience.

Straker’s work led her to conceptualize four pivotal care-giving points experienced by heroic caregivers as they begin the journey with those they care for:

Answer The Call To Become A Caregiver. First, recognize help is needed.Tasks that were previously accomplished without difficulty become laborious or impossible for loved ones to accomplish. Sometimes, you see it, but at first, you don’t focus until perhaps an outstanding event cannot be ignored. You may come to realize your loved one is in real danger.

Acknowledge Your Emotional Reaction. In recognition of the required change in the observer role—moving from “observer” to “caregiver”—many feelings may be experienced. The feeling of being overwhelmed or numbed may be felt, though not necessarily expressed, as the first emotion. Following this, various feelings may appear as the new role and its requirements emerge: anger, loss, fear, sadness, joy, and more.

Develop The Caregiving Plan. This includes your own self-care/resource review. Developing a plan for the current caregiver should be considered a priority. Regardless of the plan’s focus (person receiving care or caregiver), the caregiver’s need for self-care should be included.

Implement The Caregiving Plan. Special considerations include the following: Is the person for whom you are providing care capable of participating in the implementation? Are they able to state any realistic preferences they may have? What if aspects of the plan don’t work? What is the timeline for implementing the plan?

“Sometimes, other family members do not have the ability to make a plan and implement it as well as the heroic caregivers can,” says Straker. “Implementation often requires the caregiver to be in good health, live in the same general area, and have the time and/or the resources to offer the full-time task of caregiving. Things become much more difficult when the caregiver has health issues.”

Even with the most focused caregivers, it is possible to be distracted or stressed by responsibilities for those being cared for. Caregivers need to balance caring for their loved ones with making certain they care for themselves. Sometimes, this is not such an easy task.

Straker notes that often, laughter helps. She says “Finding humor in what can become trying circumstances is required for caregiving. When humor no longer softens a particular situation, patience and attention to detail are needed.”

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SOURCE Pamela Straker