Caregiving Coaching: Fostering Resilience in Older Adult Spousal Caregivers


Partnership_handshake.jpgCaregivers need all the help they can get!  Coaching is a great way to adress their specific needs! Thank you for visiting us at Advocare. We provide Aging Life CareTM to area residents throughout the South Florida area.

Older adult spouses who are caregivers are an overlooked group that deserves our attention.  A recent study by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund (2014)      found that spouses account for approximately 20% of family caregivers, and 49% are aged 65 or older. 58% of spousal caregivers received no help from family or friends. A full 70% of spousal caregivers indicated that they felt they had no choice but to take on the responsibility of performing complex medical/nursing tasks. A small, but significant, literature is emerging regarding the impact of caregiving on spouses, with recent studies providing potential guidance to inform the provision of services to this special group. Bookwala (2014) found that the psychological resources of mastery and self-esteem are particularly effective in improving adaptation to the stress of an ill spouse. The emerging field of professional coaching appears well suited to play a key role in addressing the needs of the caregiving spouse.

Over the past dozen years, I have received numerous referrals of older adult spouse caregivers who are already active participants in a support group for a period of time, but still experiencing problems making the necessary adaptations to their caregiving role. Although I have been a Geropsychologist since the early 1980’s, due to the nature of the presenting problems I found myself using the formal coach training I completed in 2003 to a greater extent than my training as a psychologist. A coaching approach helped many of these spouses engage in a process of adaptation and development of a sense of mastery with improved self-esteem, thereby meeting their goals without having to be treated as if they had a mental disorder.

My coach training might best be considered Holistic, Values-Based Action Coaching (Auerbach, 2001), which rests on a foundation of the client’s most important values. Coaches who work with clients in transition help them clarify their personal identity, integrate a new sense of purpose, and experience increased confidence. A key characteristic of coaching is the orientation to help clients “forward their actions.”  By this I mean that rather than exploring pain or trauma, the coach helps the client maintain focus on their ideal vision of their future.

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