Monday, November 7, 2011

Questions for Caregivers

The following is an excerpt from my provocative interview with Byron Woodman of the wonderful website, 

So... if the quality of life depended on the quality of the questions we ask, what might that mean for caregiving?

The voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes but in having new eyes.
—Marcel Proust

Whiteside: I began to see “life through new eyes” at age 33 when I took the Landmark Forum. That transformational training and subsequent workshops taught me, among other things, the power of a question, taking me into a vital new career, through ten years of challenging yet successful caregiving, into my current work as a caregiver’s coach and Elder advocate, and now into yet another reinvention of my life purpose. Chapter Three of my book, “The Caregiver’s Compass” begins by applying the power of questioning to surviving and thriving on the journey of family caregiving.

QFL: -  What questions did you ask yourself as a caregiver? -
Whiteside: The questions that drove my caregiving decade of survival and personal growth evolved from, 
To what am I committed? and How can I give without giving myself away? 
What is the source of my energy and peace? and then
What would be available to me if I opened my heart to my mother? 
Those four little questions, as you can see, cover a lot of terrain. They were answered by applying to myself the life coaching principles that I had been learning and teaching others over the previous decade. And, yes, by the end of my decade with Mom we had forged a loving relationship.

QFL: - What questions do you ask caregivers that mindful caregivers can ask themselves -
In this one-and-only moment, what are my choices, inner and outer?
Since all we have is the present moment, the choices we make Now cause everything that follows. Everything hangs on that momentary question and its subsequent choice.

What “stories” do I tell myself about caregiving that make it harder?
Our inner stories give us our emotional experience of life, so we’d better make up good ones. Life-serving ones.

What are my strengths and survival habits?
A kneejerk positive attitude can blind you to the truth. The need to be right can have you miss important learning opportunities. Which survival habits are undermining your effectiveness? Which will help you to succeed?

What am I resisting that I might begin to allow?
Most energy sinks are cause by resisting someone or something. Therefore the more we can accept and allow, the less energy we waste.

When is my helping actually disempowering my Elder/loved one?
Are you trying to fix your loved ones life, or empower her/him? The two frequently work at cross purposes.

What are my expectations?
Expectations will often trip you up. Identify your expectations of caregiving, your family members, and yourself. Some expectations degrade the quality of caregiving. Whenever possible, consider lowering the bar.

QFL: - How do we go about being happier and continually learning? -
Mind your own business.
Don't try to change others.
Focus more on who you are being, and less on what you are doing.
Focus more on what the inner world of others looks like, and less on trying to convince them that your way is right.
If you keep getting disappointed, lower your expectations.
Be authentic.
Release control in favor of movement and resilience.
Notice resistance in your body, identify what you’re resisting, then let it be.
Repeatedly throughout the day step back from what is happening and just notice it without judgment.
Look for multiple ways of interpreting whatever is happening.
If life is just a series of stories we tell ourselves, continually ask, "What story would now best serve me?"

QFL: - How do you frame your coaching questions to help your clients optimize their learning -
Whiteside: I begin by giving the client ...

QFL: - What questions do you think people should ask themselves to make this world a happier and healthier place to live? -
Whiteside: Byron, I’ve come to the belief that the only way to make the world happier and healthier is...
(see the full text at

Holly's Bio on Questions for Living:

Read more!