You may have heard one or both of the following: “In the event oxygen is needed, put on your own mask before any others,” the flight attendant states just before takeoff. Or, “charity starts at home”. The underlying meaning: you’ll be no help to those in need if you neglect yourself to the point of burnout.

This is a message we share with Barbara A. Given, PhD, R. N. Dr. Given has been studying caregivers for the past seventeen years. We would also like to send this message to the millions of men and women caring for aging or other ailing loved ones. All care giving situations are unique. You may be just caring for elderly parents or nursing a spouse undergoing cancer treatment, the loss of mobility or some other debilitating illness or accident.

“Charity Starts At Home”.

Additionally, we have found that caregivers are willing to give up their lucrative employment to care for a loved one in need of constant, or at least, day care. We have an example of a retail sales manager who gave up his position after an argument with his boss to care for his ailing aunt. Because the sales manager lacked the understanding of specific employment laws that would allow him to take a leave of absence, he resigned from his position. He cared for his aunt for some time, and then returned to the job market after her recovery to find other employment. In today’s economic market this could be very risky and detrimental to career connectivity.

The underlying meaning: you’ll be no help to those in need if you neglect yourself to the point of burnout .

For situations such as this, there are options that you can investigate: the family medical leave act allows you to take twelve weeks unpaid leave per year to care for seriously ill family members, or to take care of a newborn or newly adopted child.

Other options could be: just leave of absence, arrange for job sharing or even a temporary leave without pay. It is sad that not everyone explores all the employment family care options. Statistics show that approximately 67% take time off during the workday for care responsibilities, 64% used up their sick or vacation time, 25% refused promotions, 22% take a leave of unpaid absence, 20% wind up quitting work, and, 13% take early retirement to care for loved ones at home.

The National Alliance for Care giving estimates that 22-25 million Americans care for an aging or disabled relative. According to the National Council on the Aging (NCOA), about 80% of those are women. According to the NCOA, the profile of the average caregiver is a 57-year-old married woman with children still at home. The expectation that the Caregiver will be a woman is slowly changing. Think of the advent of the Mr. Mom that is now prevalent in our society.

In our own work we have confirmed that there is a growing number of male caregivers and care giving by grand children. The parents have outlived their immediate children, leaving the grandchildren or nieces and nephews to fill the care giving role.

All caregiving situations are different. You may be just caring for elderly parents or nursing a spouse undergoing cancer treatment, caring for loss of mobility or some other debilitating illness or accident to any family member.

Lastly, only 16% of hospital patients received referrals to professional home health care during their first year following diagnosis. What happens to the rest? What is available to help family members make informed decisions and help them through these traumatic and exhausting times?

Enter the world of Elder Life and Care Giver Coaching.

Many state and community services can assist with geriatric care assessment but not coaching services for the adult family. Elder Life coaches are beginning to show up in many of the domestic states. They are skilled at understanding the transition to independent or assisted living. Additionally, certified coaches are trained in the aging process. These coaches understand the process involved that can cause confusion and fear: what to take, what to leave, what to give to relatives, do you keep your own doctors, what activities will you continue or delete, how will you make new friends; along with, creating the identity of your unique life’s contributions.

For the adult family or care giver, Elder Life Coaches have a full comprehension of the new opportunities that open for us and the challenges that may confront us, such as personal mobility issues. In this specific time of a life’s journey, there is help available for you or someone you love, to honor themselves, celebrate their depth of wisdom, and continue to reach the full dimension of the gifts yet to be given.

Through all this there is a common theme for every Caregiver. How do we as caregivers keep up a balanced life through the care giving roles and the additional roles we have for life (husband, wife, children, pets, social, and community)? In our practice we have found the most critical impact of care giving is that the caregiver’s personal life is compromised. When they take on any care giving we have found that caregivers forfeit their own exercise, leisure time, and most of all personal time. This could be as simple as the time to recharge, build up resources, or renew spiritual connectedness.

Resources For Locating A Coach

As coaching in aging is am emerging field, it is our recommendation that you select a coach that is ‘certified’ in the coaching profession. After all, you wouldn’t trust your health to a doctor that was not trained and board certified in the medical practices of the American Medical Association (AMA).

Coaches come from all backgrounds, from the corporate world, the health & wellness industries, even therapy and social work. To find a certified coach and review their background & training, use the Web resources of the International Coach Federation (ICF), / The ICF is the is the largest worldwide resource for business and personal coaches, and the source for those who are seeking a coach. The ICF is a nonprofit, individual membership organization formed by professionals worldwide and is the governing body for coach ethics and practices.

Also, you may find resources within the National Association of State Units on Aging, The mission of the association is to advance social, health, and economic policies responsive to the needs of a diverse aging population; and, to enhance the capacity of its membership to promote the rights, dignity and independence of, the current and future generations of older persons, and their families.

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Bradley Ann Morgan & Stephan Marais


  • Bradley Morgan and Stephan Marais are certified life coaches through the Professional Coaching Certification (PCC) program from Newfield Network. They are also members of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP), and the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA). Also, Stephan is the editor for the Politics of Trust Web page on Aging & Elder Care for Senator John Vasconcellos of California.