Tips and resources to help you throughout your caregiving journey

Draw on your strengths to care for aging parents

Are you aware of your strengths? Do you draw on these strengths to shape how you care for your aging parents?  Being aware of your strengths, and drawing on them will make for a more pleasant journey for both you and your parents.

Think about strengths in the broadest of ways. That is, any inner quality that assists you in dealing with the challenges of life — any inner quality that assists you — is a strength. In this way, you may discover hidden strengths or internal resources of which you had been previously unaware.

I have developed the following list from both research and a review of caregiving experiences. You will notice that these traits or strengths are not necessarily unique to caregiving. However, they are certainly applicable to the experience of caring for someone.

Caregiver strengths

  1. Resilience – The ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions; “I can negotiate for what I need and navigate systems.”
  2. Patience – The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
  3. Flexibility – Ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances; accept what is happening in the moment.
  4. Compassion – The ability to translate empathic feelings into action (desire to alleviate suffering).
  5. Optimism – Expect a favourable or positive outcome.
  6. Confidence – Sure of one’s self and one’s abilities.
  7. Organization – Methodical and efficient in arrangement or function.
  8. Ability to Laugh – To easily see and appreciate the humour in the situation.

To help you identify your strengths in relation to this list, you can complete the following short exercise.

Caregiver strengths exercise

Your task is to decide the strength of your agreement with each statement.  There are no “right” or “wrong” answers. Select the number that most closely reflects you. Take your time and consider each statement carefully.

I see myself as someone who is…
1. All the time2. Sometimes3. Hardly ever
Resilient
Patient
Flexible
Compassionate
Optimistic
Confident
Organized
Able to laugh easily/see the humour

Harnessing your caregiver strengths

Now that you have identified and acknowledged your personal caregiver strengths you can consciously approach the care you provide to your aging parents with your strengths.

It is also likely that completing this exercise revealed what your greatest challenges are and where you are not at your best.

It is equally important to have this awareness because you can develop a caregiver action plan to manage these challenges.  Try to limit them to the bare minimum, delegate them to someone else for whom they are strengths, and/or make a decision and plan to nurture and enhance your challenges.  

In the field of positive psychology, research supports that it is entirely possible to cultivate or further develop traits or personal strengths. It is also possible to strengthen so-called weaknesses. In other words, it is possible for all of us to change how we approach life’s experiences and challenges.

How are you going to harness your caregiver strengths?

Look at your list of personal strengths.

  • How can you draw upon and really leverage your strengths more?  
  • If possible, can you change anything about the situation of caring for your parents to work more with your strengths?
  • Can you delegate tasks that don’t align with your strengths?  
  • On the other hand, are there opportunities for you to work on and strengthen any weaknesses?
  • Is there a trait or character that really matters to you?  

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