Coaching gives carers the opportunity to take a step back and focus on themselves – something they may not have done for a while, says Suzanne Bourne.
I love this really simple definition of coaching from Coaching Development: “Coaching is a series of purposeful conversations which enables you to move towards your goals, and typically involves some form of change.”
Coaching might not be the obvious solution when we think about supporting carers. The following might come to mind first:
● Signposting to useful resources and people
● Practical help or respite care
● Training on how to be a carer
● Financial support and advice
● Relaxation services such as massage
● Connection with other carers either online or in person
Yes, they do need all of these things at different times and, thanks to the amazing charities and community organisations that support carers, much of this is available. However, carers’ lives have become complex. They may put the needs of others first and so simply never have time to use these services or feel that these services are not for them.
Connecting with these services at the right time in the right way is just as important as the service itself. Coaching could be the missing thread that joins it all together.
Caring can throw up a number of practical challenges, decisions to be made, actions to take, problems to solve and never-ending to-do lists. Sitting down 1-1 with a coach is like pressing the pause button; you can step outside of all the craziness, work out what is a priority, set small achievable goals and create plans to work though with support.
Making sense of the support available and making choices about when to access what can reduce the sense of overwhelm and confusion felt by carers.
In coaching the carer is at the centre of the conversation (not the cared for). A coach will not just focus on their caring role but the whole of who they are in life. Wellbeing, career and future plans may all have taken a back seat because of caring; coaching can bring them into focus.
Coaching is a safe space; carers can talk about themselves without fear of judgement or being told what to do. When a carer is free to talk honestly feelings such as guilt, resentment, acceptance and disappointment are common. Stepping back to look at these feelings and our responses to them can bring a sense of control and choice.
Many carers have a perception of their ability as a carer that is a long way from reality, seeing themselves as failing, struggling or not good enough. Self-confidence may have taken a knock and their perception of success can be skewed. Recognising this and working through it can be transformative.
My own experience of being coached as a carer led to transformation for me. I’ve stopped comparing myself to others, I recognise the value of my lived experience and I notice new opportunities and experiences opening up. When I decided I wanted to coach carers and facilitate carers groups I realised my experience had purpose and could make a difference to others. I found my “why?”