From Mindset to Mindshift: The Inevitable Path of Family Caregivers

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I recently delivered the keynote address at the Baltimore County Department of Aging’s Annual Caregiver Conference. The theme of the conference was “It’s All About Perspective: Caregiving Through a Different Lens,” which beautifully summarizes the approach I take when working with family caregivers.

During my 90-minute presentation, the caregivers and I reviewed and discussed The Pattern of Caregiver Development Model as well as The Caregiver Mindshift Model. It was the first time I’ve combined these two models together into a single presentation, which was possible due to the length of time the meeting organizer had allocated on the agenda. I was pleased to see how nicely these models dovetailed with one another in our discussion; both are representative of the learning processes inherent in ongoing family caregiving experience.

As we reviewed the meaning of the word “mindset,” I used the metaphor of setting a clock, which occurs whenever we adjust a clock’s features to align with the present moment. Aligning oneself with the present moment is something all caregivers must do. A growth mindset is critical to this alignment because it will enable you to be receptive to new ideas and approaches to caring for your loved one today. Mindset adjustments are among the most important ways to effect positive change in your caregiving experience.

Mindset adjustments reside at the heart of The Caregiver Mindshift Model, which depicts cognitive stages that loosely align with one’s length of experience in family caregiving. Like a car shifts gears while driving down the road, there is a natural “shifting” of the mind that occurs through the passage of a family caregiver’s journey while delivering care to a loved one. The Caregiver Mindshift is a process of learning, growing, and adapting to the challenging circumstances precipitated by a care receiver’s health condition.

With enough time and family caregiving experience, such cognitive shifts are inevitable, but they may be imperceptible to an individual who is consumed with meeting the day-to-day demands of care for a loved one. As a committed family caregiver, you eventually discover that not only have the activities of your life changed, but the way you think about your life has also changed—which is authentic evidence of your growth and development.

This learning process may not always be subtle for caregivers. Sometimes an unexpected moment of truth can abruptly awaken you to the need for a change in your mindset. On such occasions, a jarring event or conversation may force you to take a hard look in the mirror to identify sources of cognitive dissonance.

I believe that one caregiver at the Baltimore County event had the chance to see herself in the mirror. When I had concluded my keynote presentation, a woman who was in the audience approached me. After an initial greeting, she told me that our discussion about mindset “sent chills down her spine.” She said she just realized her biggest obstacle to handling the caregiving requirements of her husband was her fixed mindset—holding onto how things used to be, or how things ought to be, as opposed to adjusting her mindset to the realities of her life today. It appeared that this realization was nothing short of revelatory for her. Armed with a newfound awareness of the power of her mindset in caregiving, the woman is poised to make necessary adjustments for herself and her loved one.

If you are a family caregiver, gaining consciousness of the caregiver development process can be both validating (by manifesting growth that has already occurred) and liberating (by recognizing the need to unshackle oneself from outdated thinking that no longer applies today).

As a family caregiver, how is your current mindset? Have you experienced changes in your ways of thinking about yourself, your relationship, or your life as a result of your caregiving experiences? Please send me an email to tell me about your personal path from mindset to mindshift. I’d love to hear from you.

Posted in Family Caregiving