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Intentional Caregiving

Intentional CaregivingSo, you may be asking yourself, is there unintentional caregiving?  The answer is “yes,” and there is a lot more than you may at first think.  We have all heard people use expressions like “I was so busy I didn’t know which way was up.”  What they really may have been saying is that “I got so caught up in the chaos of the moment that I was doing more motion than making progress.”  I have talked in earlier postings about the dementia of distraction.  Well, that was a reference to the forgetfulness that comes from dividing our attention across too many simultaneous tasks.

Well, life in the current high tech environment has us all stimulated by any number of people, things or gadgets.  I am not going to recommend that caregivers unplug entirely from caregiving as some technology gurus encourage going through tech detox and simply disconnecting from all things tech periodically.  Caregiving does not allow that, but intentional caregiving can be a way of engaging in what maybe a Zen master might call contemplative caregiving.  Intentional caregiving is the opposite of the overwhelming chaos that can be the caregiving that comes from doing everything that is in front of us, everything we are guilted into doing and not giving any thought to whether we are really getting done what needs doing!

Intentional caregiving is about recognizing that every task we set out to do for a care receiver is an opportunity to make choices that help us be centered, thoughtful, productive and on-task.  By being more intentional we actually get more done with less …less time, less energy and less anxiety.  Here are some tips:

  • Keep it Simple: Try to do any task or series of tasks individually. A Logical sequence would be nice, but at the very least avoid multi-tasking; multi-tasking results too often in every task being done sub-optimally.
  • Don’t forget to Breathe:  I will get even more Zen than this, but appreciate that slow and even breathing is a way to give calming feedback to your brain. That feedback also helps to relax tension in the muscles. If you notice that your tongue is protruding while you are engaged in a task, you are probably holding your breath. Breathe…
  • Try Something New. Even caregivers are susceptible to the old adage: “If you keep doing what you always have been doing, you will keep getting what you always have been getting.” Try new approaches, look for an app for whatever the task is, and maybe even change up the schedule a bit. Perhaps a hot shower at the beginning of the day is a way to soothe your muscles and refresh you mind before plunging into your chores.
  • Yes, Meditate. This is the real Zen part. It is as simple as assuming lotus position…or anything that does not have your knees or ankles crossed and practice slow breaths …in through the nose…out through the mouth. Repeat.
  • Recharge your Batteries. I knew a caregiver who started out conversation by observing that he had gone from five hours of uninterrupted sleep a night to five hours of interrupted sleep. That is not sustainable. Seek out a geriatric care manager for local resources, check out respite care, get other members of the family…or the village…who can contribute. You need rest.

Ultimately, intentional caregiving is a win-win. Not only does the care receiver get a better outcome for whatever task, but you as a caregiver are taking better care of you. 

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Professional and a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to


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