Senior Home Healthcare Hampton Roads

Erica D. Jones, PhD

The question today is, “Are you a helicopter caregiver?” I was reading an article and this is the question that stopped me in my tracks, I had to ask myself, “Am I a helicopter caregiver?” As I was thinking about the question, I realized this is similar to a helicopter parent. I understood the definition of a helicopter parent, and that is a parent that takes an excessive overprotective interest in their children’s lives. Going back down memory lane on raising my two daughters, I do not seem to fit into the category of a helicopter parent, but do I fit into the category of a helicopter caregiver since I am a full-time caregiver for my grandparents?
Taking into account what I say does not fit all family dynamics. In short, to give you a background, my grandfather is in the late stages of dementia and my grandmother has a few physical issues that are causing memory loss which has progressed over the past two years. Back to the question, “Am I a helicopter caregiver?” My answer is, “No.” Becoming a helicopter caregiver can bring on caregiver burnout and take your happiness away. Granted, our loved ones need to be protected, feel secure, and have a sense of worth. If someone told you right now, “you will eat what I give you because this is healthy for you, take a nap when I tell you because it is the best time for you, wear what I want you to wear because I know what is best, etc.” I guarantee you that you would not like it and you would have a push-back attitude. Believe it when I say that is how the elderly feel when they are losing their independence.
Having a person-centered approach can make it not only agreeable for your loved one but less stressful for you. So, you say, “What is a person-centered approach?” I am so glad that you asked. The person-centered approach is when you place the person that you are caring for as the center of it all, focusing on what they can do, what they like or aspire and not on their condition or disability. Does this make sense? As everyday people do, you love it more when people want to know about what makes you happy or when someone does what makes them happy for your sake? Of course, this takes work, but once you get it, it becomes easy. Even though I know my grandparents, I have come to learn who they are on another level than just the granddaughter and grandparent relationship. So, the question to you is, “Are you a helicopter caregiver?”