All About Caregiving

In a 2004 national survey, the AARP found that 44.4 million Americans are providing unpaid care to an adult, and the estimated annual value is $257 billion. To do so is a beautiful act of love and devotion, but also a great drain on one's physical and psychological resources.

Recent Posts on Caregiving

6 Things You Can Say to Support Someone Who's Depressed

By Jean Kim M.D. on July 27, 2015 in Culture Shrink
How can well-meaning people provide support to someone with depression, aside from avoiding tendencies towards judgment? How can one head towards greater understanding and connect with someone who is suffering?

Seeing the Person Within the Persona

Irrelationship is about a lot of things: a co-created and shared defense, compulsive caregiving, Performing and Audiencing, suffering and feeling trapped and helpless. It is also about hiding out in a routine, a song-and-dance routine. That routine is like a mask that protects the self from observation—it is a persona-in-action (an enacted disguise).

The Archeology of Misbehavior

Archeology is the study of human activity in the past. The archeology of misbehavior is studying current behavior to uncover hidden sources. The “ruins” of misdeeds are built upon personality architecture and cultural landscapes.

An Invaluable Lesson From Elders

Although suffering in life is inevitable, we can mitigate it.

47 Reasons Why It's Really, Really Good to Be an Aunt

By Melanie Notkin on July 24, 2015 in Savvy Auntie
Every aunt knows how fortunate we are to have the love of our nieces and nephews. And we are grateful to their parents, who have given us the gift of aunthood. And so, Auntie's Day is also a time for us to appreciate all really good things that aunthood brings...

Is Family Equality a Right to Surrogacy?

By Elliot Hosman J.D. on July 22, 2015 in Genetic Crossroads
With marriage equality the law of the land, the dignity of LGBTQ families calls for an ongoing conversation about the regulation of the ART and surrogacy industries.

Backing Away From Lovers' Leap

The heartfelt sense that we've met some long lost part of ourselves in that new friend with whom we so readily, easily, and fluidly fell into what seemed like the rare moment of intimacy within which we can share our "darkest" and "deepest" is irrelationship all dressed up to look, once again, like the cure to our disconnected state.

Toward a More Civil Divorce

By Liza Long on July 16, 2015 in The Accidental Advocate
In a high-conflict divorce, both adults share the blame. But the adversarial family court system doesn't do much to help parents or their children. My thoughts as a mother on the three Michigan children sent to juvenile detention for refusing lunch with their father: it's just lunch.

Don’t Be Shameless! Why Good People Feel Bad Emotions

We tend to protect our children from shame. Should we?

Keep in Step: The Complexity of Stepfamilies

Lynne works with the underlying complexity of her stepfamily to create strong family bonds.

Year of the Caregiver?

Senate and House consider bills to support and fund caregiving. AARP Forum calls for recognition of caregiving.

Friendship as a Moving Target

By keeping our need and desire for closeness with others diffuse, migratory and superficial we are able to play out irrelationship dynamics in larger social circles. We suspend—at least postpone indefinitely—our awareness of how we have secured ourselves from being realistically disappointed by people in our current lives.

You Are Your Child’s “First Verb”

"First Verb Parenting" sees parents as a “child’s first verb”---loving action figures giving meaning, direction, guidance, and linking---to children, their attentive subjects.

5 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Who's Depressed

By Jean Kim M.D. on July 01, 2015 in Culture Shrink
What isn’t helpful and remains a huge hurdle for the lay public to understand about depression is that it isn’t just a matter of moral failure or weakness or lack of willpower. The following comments are worth avoiding when talking to people you know going through a depressive episode:

Are You a Codependent Beast of Others' Burdens?

By Shawn M. Burn Ph.D. on June 25, 2015 in Presence of Mind
Do you have codependent tendencies and if so, what should you do about it?

“Daddies Are Not Mommies”

Irrelationship starts as reversed caretaking often initiated because parental resources are stretched thin. Irrelationship is less likely if parents are being taken care of—if they are taking care of each other, are able to be empathetic, intimate with each other and to share parental responsibilities. A "Direct-Care Dad" is someone who does just that: Happy Father's Day!

Tackling the Emotions in Borderline Personality Disorder

People with borderline personality disorder have one of the most challenging psychological problems to treat. Furthermore, if you or someone you know is in a relationship with someone who has this disorder, you know how difficult it can be to live with the disorder. Mentalization-based therapy, focused on emotions, may provide an important new approach.

Grieving the Loss of a Child: The Five Stage Myth

The trauma experienced by grieving parents cannot be captured by the five stage model.

Denial Only Makes Chronic Pain and Illness Worse

It’s better to live within the limits of what I can reasonably do than to pretend things are as I wish they would be.

Irrelation(Friend)ship

Irrelationship does not just have to do with romance, but friendship too. Do you get into a fix with friends sometimes? Do you recognize in friendships troublesome relational—irrelational—dynamics that are tanking opportunities for genuine emotional connection? Do you regret friendships which have failed and wish that you'd been able to hang onto those folks? Read on...

A Workover: A Scientist/Professor Leaves to be a Caretaker

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on June 01, 2015 in How To Do Life
Advice I gave to a caller to my NPR-San Francisco radio program.

A Child is Being Beaten—Ever or Never?

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) made famous the stark phrase “the banality of evil.” This complex idea connotes colossal destructiveness done by men of less than colossal character. The everyday pervasiveness of senseless cruelty---humankind’s inhumanity toward itself---makes it clear that the inclination of destructiveness is real. Effective parenting is primary prevention.

GRAFTS: Variations on Our Irrelationship Song-and-Dance

Our specific song-and-dance routines—ways that we reverse caretaking role with our key caregiver(s)—become the basic blueprint the pattern of interaction we will develop to care for our key caregiver. These patterns can be called GRAFTS and the acronym describes—in a very basic broad stroke—some of the habits that can become part of our caregiving conditioning.

Conversation with a Mother about Sleep Training her Baby

Dear Dr., I need help! I have a lovely 11 month old baby girl and my husband and I both work full-time… I resorted to sleep coaching recently… I am afraid that we have already done irreparable damage to our sweet baby.

Irrelationship Is Not Codependency

Codependency may sometimes dovetail with irrelationship to the point that they’re not easily distinguishable. They may sometimes seem like kissing cousins, but at the level of purpose and of points of origin, they’re decidedly not identical twins.

Helping Others Navigate the Healthcare System

Not knowing how to navigate the health care system can lead to important delays and serious health consequences. Alarmingly, over half the U.S. population are not adequately prepared. Counselors are vital to the process of reversing the number of people unfamiliar with the healthcare system.

Doctor-Patient Communications are Out of Whack

Given the high-stakes of medical testing and treatment, the doctor-patient relationship is shaped to varying degrees by apprehension and fretfulness for both parties involved. When there is irrelationship between doctor and patient, it is more likely that there will be irrelationship between the healthcare system and everyone else.

When Someone You Love Has Mental Illness

In honor of Mental Health Month, we explore how to advocate for your loved one with mental illness.

Compassion: Living, Loving, and Dying

Compassion, which we so often show towards strangers, can sometimes take a back seat with those we love. Yet in society today, we need compassion, for those in our homes, in nursing facilities, and in hospitals.

What is Relationship Sanity?

Insanity is defined as repeating the same behavior and expecting different results. But how might we broach a definition of relational sanity? If we accept a simple and straightforward definition of sanity as "soundness of mind," could we say that experiencing ourselves as being loving and lovable is a (if not the) definition of relational/relationship sanity?