Caregiving is a challenging role for anyone. However, when it is coupled with caring for the needs of your aging parents, along with the needs of your spouse and children, the effects of caregiving can really pose a dilemma that you will deeply feel.

Balancing Your Time
is the key factor since caring for your parent may take away from the time you spend with your immediate family. If you have taken or are taking on the responsibility of caring for your parent(s), it is up to you to learn about the issues, which can arise and take the necessary steps to balance your time as well as the dynamics that will exist between everyone.

You will find that your family may experience a range of emotions from jealousy (because your parent(s) is (are) taking up so much of your time; anger and resentment because they aren’t first in your life anymore; fear as to how long this is going to continue and concern with your being ok as well as your parents. They may want to help out if you will permit them to and they also may not want to have anything to do with your role in caring for your parents.

Your family may experience a variety of feelings. They may be consciously aware of their feelings and they may be oblivious. It is essential for you all to learn good communication skills so that everyone will be able to express him or herself. Likewise, you must be able to communicate your own mixed feelings to each of them on a level that they understand. If you are unable to do this on your own, you might want to seek professional counseling to assist you because your emotions of fear, anger, guilt, confusion and so forth will ripple out to the members of your family. To further avoid these consequences, you may want to set up special, quality times for these meetings either as a family, one on one or both. These meetings should be arranged on a regular basis.

It is also important for you to involve your family as much as you can. Sharing important decision-making choices are a necessity with your spouse. Having your children spend quality time with their grandparents is also important. Younger children can make arts and crafts type of gifts. Older children can read to them, play games and reflect with their grandparents on their own upbringing. If you try to play the martyr, a barrier will be created amongst your own family, so it is wise to do all that is in your power to keep the communications open. By openly telling them that they are all in this together and creating opportunities to participate, you will find your family more receptive and loving towards the entire situation.

You and your family members may also begin grieving at the instance of a diagnosis for your parent. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. However, this too needs to be acknowledged. Grieving is a process and it is highly individualized so each member must be nurtured and guided to working through their grief.

Another issue, which many caregivers are faced with, is their work. Whether you are working part time or full time, if you have a professional career that requires your complete dedication, service and attention, you are will be straddled with making life long decisions, commitments and possibly even compromises.

All these issues compounded with the full time responsibility of caregiving a parent is enough to stress anyone out. Careful thought and consideration will be needed to adapt to the situation. This lies fully in your hands as the caregiver.

Listen to your heart. Your commitment must first be to yourself, then to your family and lastly to your parents. It is difficult to make this type of decision, but the truth is if you are not stable and focused, you will not be able to care for your family or parent (s). You must discipline yourself as a caregiver to get your needs met. This means eating properly, exercising, sleeping, socializing, relaxation and doing things to nurture yourself. Learning to say no and set boundaries are part of being a good caregiver. Working through your guilt, resentment, feeling obligated to care for them and a variety of other emotions must be cleared so that you are in an open and receptive place of balance to juggle your time accordingly.

With this in mind, the role of caregiving can prove to be transformational, healing, one of growth and a loving experience. You may never have the opportunity to experience this magnificent but bittersweet challenge.


  • Ms. Mitchell began her full-time caregiving experience in the early eighties when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Later on she became the primary caregiver for her father, along with her mother who had become critically ill from burnout prior to her dad’s passing. In recent years, she cared for several friends with AIDS while continuing to care for her mother and actively providing support, information, referrals and resources for caregivers.

    Gail's leadership on the Internet and her success with Empowering Caregivers led her to found National Organization For Empowering Caregivers (NOFEC) INC in 2001.

    Prior to founding NOFEC, she created the iVillageHealth Chat: Empowering Caregivers, which she hosted for over 5 years. Within a month of hosting she created Empowering Caregivers: in 1999 as a resource for caregivers around the globe. Over three million visitors have frequented the website.

    She has presented at national and international care-related conferences and programs and has been a keynote speaker for many programs as well.

    Ms Mitchell has assisted thousands of caregivers online and offline in ways to empower themselves in their roles in caring for loved ones.

    For a list of clients and/or her resume, please contact

    Gail's articles have been published in many venues nationally and in Canada. Presently, she is a member of American Society on Aging and National Quality Caregivers Coalition.

    Gail has discovered that there is life after caregiving: She has become a successful ceramic artist and installation artist. She created Crystal Illumination Art to bring the transformative quality of illumination, light and color to the human experience and celebrate its ability to inspire, heal and nourish our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.