The following is from Caregiver Transformation Retreat co-creator and award-winning professor, Zachary White…
When care meets love, everything changes. Once you become a caregiver, your existing relationship with your loved one is both the same and different. Your relationship with your friends and family is both the same and different. And nearly everything you once took for granted—the parts of your life that made so much sense—may suddenly feel strange and unfamiliar, overwhelming and disorienting.
My own life experiences as a caregiver, my role as a professor of communication, and my academic research on caregiving across the life spectrum tell me that caregiving is not only about what you do with your loved one, but also how you begin making sense of what is happening to you and your loved one, and how you seek to share your care experiences with others.
Too often, we feel compelled to put on caregiver masks to “protect” our loved ones and save our precious emotional energy from others’ well intentioned but often disappointing responses. Over time, we may find ourselves simply giving people what we think they want to hear, creating feelings of aloneness and resentment.
Unless we give ourselves permission to meaningfully examine how our caregiver role and relationship impacts our beliefs, values, and ways of connecting with others, we will remain voiceless, adrift in other people’s clichés and assumptions. Too often, caregivers miss out on the opportunity to collaboratively engage others in the midst of their care experiences.
I am proud to be a part of the Caregiver Transformation Retreat because caregiving requires that we reorient ourselves to what is happening so we can begin reclaiming the meaning(s) of our care experiences in ways that work for us.
Together, at the Retreat, we will learn communication skills and strategies designed to help you communicate more effectively and authentically with audiences that matter to you.
Together, we will discuss new ways of of thinking about and sharing your experiences that more closely align with your lived experiences, care constraints, and emerging values and insights.
Together, we will practice how to explain difficult truths to family, friends, work colleagues, and providers.
Together, we will explore the value of sharing “good” news so that the full range of your everyday care experiences are identified, remembered, and valued, increasing the likelihood of ongoing caregiver self-compassion and resilience.
Together, we will enhance your connection literacy to help you better identify and receive the kinds of in-person and online support that are most useful and valuable to you throughout your care journey.
Whomever we are and wherever we are in our care journeys, we can only find ourselves when we hear ourselves, out loud, begin to integrate and communicate the parts of our care experiences that make us—us. It’s never too early or too late to begin this process . . .
Dr. Zachary White earned his Ph.D. in communication from Purdue University. He is an Associate Professor in the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte. His research and teaching explore a range of care experiences, including birth (parental NICU experiences), chronic caregiver experiences (spousal caregiving), and end-of-life caregiving. As an award-winning university professor, Zachary teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses addressing topics such as provider-patient communication, caregiver communication, the patient experience, health and illness narratives, digital health literacy, online social support, and sense making amidst life transitions. He is the co-author (with Donna Thomson) of The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The Transformation from Loved One to Caregiver (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). He blogs at The Unprepared Caregiver (www.unpreparedcaregiver.com).