Are You on The Road of Family Caregiving?

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could… 

~ from Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Family caregivers might relate to Robert Frost’s famous metaphor of diverging roads leading to two different places in life. The irony is that divergent roads may not be perceptible to a family caregiver until after they’ve at least partially trodden the path of caregiving. In this sense, the caregiver may find themselves looking backward, not forward, at a road that was unconsciously taken. Or perhaps the caregiver, torn between what’s been left behind and what lies ahead, looks backward and forward down the road.

Although it may not be obvious at the initial fork in the road, the start of family caregiving for a loved one tends to begin in one of two ways: The Creep or The Crisis.

The Creep

The Creep happens slowly, as you start offering minor assistance to your loved one without thinking much of it. Perhaps it begins with your help in tasks that require more complex cognition, like bill paying, or maybe your loved one simply needs an extra hand as she gets in and out of the car.

No matter how it starts, over time, additional care-related tasks creep into your relationship with your loved one. You eventually discover that you’re spending more time helping your loved one with tasks that she or he used to do independently.

By now you may be scheduling doctor appointments, driving your loved one to those appointments, preparing meals, doing daily check-ins, etc. At this point you’re realizing that your role in the relationship with your loved one is changing, and you may reluctantly begin to view yourself as your loved one’s caregiver. Only then, upon finding yourself on the road of caregiving, you may ask yourself: How did we get here?

The Crisis

The Crisis happens abruptly, without any prior notice, and it can dramatically change your life. The Crisis is prompted by your loved one’s major medical event, which could be a life-altering diagnosis or injury.

Your loved one absolutely needs you, and you suddenly find yourself in the role of caregiver, whether you like it or not, without any significant time to ramp up to the responsibilities thrust upon you. Here all the medical focus is on the acute needs of your loved one, which can lead you to assume responsibilities that you may have never actually considered before, including hands-on care such as medication administration or toileting assistance for your loved one.

When The Crisis occurs, there’s a vague awareness that things are going to be different, but the vastness of change is not apparent until you’ve had a chance to catch your breath. As the dust begins to settle, you start to notice how this caregiving road features another landscape, one that you’ve never seen before. You may then ask yourself: Why did this happen?

My Caregiving Road and Its Intersection with Others

My personal caregiving road appeared via The Crisis, prompted by my mother-in-law’s brain tumor. Following brain surgery, Mom was discharged from the hospital and moved directly into our home, where my wife and I assumed responsibility for all her activities of daily living. We had no idea what we were getting into, but the next five-and-half years of caregiving changed our family and altered the trajectory of my career.

I subsequently opened a home care company and learned about The Creep, which I repeatedly saw over the course of time while helping so many families who were caring for aging and disabled loved ones.

Nowadays, during my caregiving presentations across the world, sometimes I take a quick poll of the audience’s road of family caregiving. I’ll ask them: Did your caregiving journey begin with The Creep or The Crisis? If the group is comprised of dementia-related caregivers, audience responses skew toward The Creep. If the group consists of cancer-related caregivers, audience responses skew toward The Crisis. General caregiver groups seem to be evenly split about 50/50.

Thoughts on Your Caregiving Road

As you reflect upon your own experience, did your caregiving journey begin with The Creep or The Crisis?

Have you asked yourself, How did we get here?

Or maybe Why did this happen?

However the road of family caregiving started, your assumption of caregiving responsibilities for your loved one ushered in a change to the dynamics of your relationship. It has also likely been accompanied by changes in your ways of being, doing, and thinking—all of which form the basis of The Caregiver Mindshift Model.

If you find yourself on an unexpected road of family caregiving, I encourage you to check out the “Resources for Caregivers” section of this website. There you will find tools designed to help you make sense of your caregiving journey. You can also subscribe to the Caregiving Kinetics blog, which is written by me and not artificial intelligence.

Since you have traveled at least partially down the caregiving road, perhaps you can relate to these additional words from Robert Frost:

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I hope that when you are “telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence,” you can reflect upon your road of caregiving with the clarity which comes only from hindsight. Although your caregiving journey will end, you will carry lessons and memories of this experience with you for the rest of your life.

And that may make all the difference.


Dr. Blight delivers community workshops about caregiving to groups all over the world. To schedule him for your event, please contact us.

Posted in Caregiving