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VAN Forum

Self-Care for Caregivers

November 11, 2008
10:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Joan Knuesel, FamilyMeans

Walker Methodist
3737 Bryant Ave S,
Minneapolis, MN 55409 [map]

Is there really an ‘art” to caregiving? Don’t people just naturally help family, friends or neighbors who need assistance? Are you a caregiver concerned about your own well-being? Come to this presentation to:

  • Find out how you can attend to your own well-being and sustain your hardiness for this work
  • Learn about 6 tools that can help enhance your role
  • Collect resources that can assist you on the caregiving journey

Joan Knuesel has been the Community/Family Educator in the FamilyMeans Caregiver Support Program for over eight years. A teacher by training and a caregiver by life experience, she has developed a variety of workshops on the role of caregivers today.

Speaking both locally and nationally she has advocated for awareness of this ever increasingly growing public issue.



On Tuesday, November 11, 2008 VAN hosted a forum addressing the topic of self-care for caregivers in honor of National Family Caregivers Month. Joan Knuesel, of FamilyMeans, presented about the importance of self-care when being a caregiver. According to Knuesel, we are all caregivers in some way. She began her presentation offering statistics on caregivers. Currently, there are 610,000 informal caregivers in Minnesota, which means that caregivers provide 650 million hours of care. The financial value of this care equates to approximately $7,100,000,000 billion dollars. Ninety percent of caregiving is done by family members. With this high percentage of family members providing care it should be no surprise that the average cost to United States businesses due to lost productivity of working caregivers is approximately $2,110 per employee per year. These statistics highlighted the importance of caregiving.

After offering insightful statistics, Knuesel then stated that caregivers often don’t take care of themselves when providing care. She said, “People need to survive and thrive when caregiving.” Knuesel provided 10 Common Distortions for Survival Mode that caregivers tend to utilize:

  • An all or nothing perspective – People believe that if they don’t provide care flawlessly then it is a failure
  • Overgeneralization – People believe that no matter what is said, it becomes bigger and bigger
  • Mental Filter – People tend to hear only the negative comments, which shades over everything including the positive
  • Ignoring the positive – People tend not to see or hear the positive aspects
  • Leaping to conclusions – An example is that a friend is too busy to get together, people assume this without knowing the truth
  • Magnification/Minimization
  • Emotional Reasoning
  • “Should” statement – People will should themselves to death, by saying things like I should do this, it should be this way, etc.
  • Labeling – People will label themselves rather than describe themselves
  • Personalization – People will blame themselves for triggering an event.

Therefore, to manage these distortions, people need support. According to Knuesel, there are 5 kinds of support including:

  • Emotional support – people need a confidant, or someone they can rely upon
  • Esteem support – people need a fan club
  • Information support –
  • Tangible support – this support might come from a helpful worker
  • Companionship support – people need friends

With this support, people should develop an action plan to care for themselves. Knuesel said that since caregivers often feel they don’t have time for themselves, it is important for them to create action plans that will help caregivers follow through on providing self-care. Action plan questions need to incorporate:

  • What are you going to do? (People need to think about what they are going to do to care for themselves).
  • How much are you going to do? (People must consider how much they will do).
  • When are you doing to do it? (People need to establish a concrete time that they will do their self-care activity).
  • How often are you going to do it? (People should decide how often they will do this self-care activity so it is attainable).
  • What is your confidence level? (People need to set a realistic level of confidence that they will accomplish this self-care activity).

Ideas and activities that people can use to provide self-care includes having good nutrition, exercising, getting affairs in order, and journaling. Knuesel suggested that people have two journals, one for venting and writing about their feelings, and one concerning the medical situation. The medical journal allows people to track the health changes in the person to whom they are providing care. People need to get their financial, health, and social affairs in order. This might include completing their own health care directives, wills, and communicating end of life decisions, to name a few. These tips and suggestions can help caregivers care for themselves.

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