Mentoring caregivers of the elderly

Mentoring caregivers of the elderly

Mentoring caregivers of the elderly

For years now, generations and generations care for their parents, either out of their love and desire to comfort them or because their conscience dictates that “they must do it" or "there is no other way out”.  

The number of elderly persons is constantly escalating, and the statistics single an alarm for action! By 2030, 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 60 years or over 1, while in Greece, people over 65 years will comprise 30% of the total national population.2 Meanwhile, racism, stereotypes, ageism, and lack of education for quality aged care, hinder our well-being.3

In the meantime, challenges related to management of care for the aging are increasing tremendously, making quality care for the aging harder and harder.

A caregiver could be an “adult child”, aged over 65, who looks after his parents who are 85 yrs. old or over, or someone who belongs to the “sandwich generation”, who supports young adults and cares for his or her elderly parents as well. Whispers of guilt and anger are heard regarding the enormous level of physical energy one spends, the mental capacity one invests, the financial burden one carries, in order to care for an elderly person with dignity and respect.4

We cannot deny this reality any longer! We are all witnesses to this in our own homes, families, in our neighborhood, in our country and abroad. It is happening now! Let’s see it! Let’s hear it!

Tell me, since you started caring for an elderly parent, friend or relative, how true is the fact that:

  1. You have put your personal life on hold;
  2. You avoid expressing your feelings of despair and anger to avoid being stigmatized;
  3. You are under a high level of stress;
  4. You often feel lost and lonely;
  5. You often feel lost, that you have undertaken this caregiving role out of necessity or obligation;
  6. You feel that you no longer have control over your personal life;
  7. You have woken up one day to realize that you are not a partner to your spouse or available to your children, but rather you are an emergency case manager who needs to be available on a full-time basis;
  8. You do not have time to meet with your friends;
  9. Your physical and mental health have changed; your blood pressure and weight is not stable;
  10. Your financial status has deteriorated;
  11. You cannot deal with the person who is suffering from dementia any longer and the care you are struggling to provide has become unbearable.

Obviously, all “invisible family caregivers” are the backbone of long-term care! Caring for the elderly is a silent sacrifice of our personal life. For many people and for many reasons, this sacrifice has become more difficult. For we are now facing scarce resources and insufficient mental and physical capacities to provide care.

However, the valuable contribution of caring should be acknowledged immediately! The caregiver, who often ends up suffering from hopelessness and despair, desperately seeks help, support, mentoring and education to be able to deal with all these experiences. The caregiver needs to develop special skills in order to deal with inevitable crises while caring for the elderly. We need to recognize that a caregiver must look after himself and herself to be able to care for the elderly with respect and dignity.

Thoughts, proposals and strategies have been published internationally, aiming to solve the difficulties that today’s blessed longevity has brought to our daily life.5 Nevertheless, at this stage, many households experience this blessing as a difficulty that has found them totally unprepared. Today, the State, the Church and other social actors must share direct responsibility in establishing guidelines, mentoring programs and support services for those who care for the elderly; services that will assist all involved, both the elderly and their caregivers, to deal with the negative emotions that plague them.

This type of mentoring may facilitate the caregiver to express and share his and her experiences with other caregivers and with trained professionals to feel deep understanding and to engage in a collaboration of learning from one another.

Being understood gives caregivers the type of relief that empowers them to better handle their stress and fatigue; to provide quality care for themselves and to their elderly. Also, sharing experiences gives the carer the opportunity to develop caring skills.

Another major problem related to ageing in everyday living are the stereotypes that have been formed around how we think, understand and treat older people and their caregivers. Here we must remember that programs for comfort, caring, companion, social support are not characterized by color, gender, socioeconomic status or other discriminations.  

Mentoring is the response to the human’s need to live and survive; to provide urgent care for the other person; to acknowledge the efforts made by caregivers; to recognize their loneliness, their physical and mental fatigue, and giving them the honor and respect they deserve.

The lack of financial resources creates problems for many families who must care for their elderly. However, rich or poor, all experience a common problem: a list of emotions related to their loved one who is ageing.

The caregiver has a three-dimensional relationship with the elder: the elder person needs the caregiver, and the caregiver needs you and each one of us.  Let us give our support to these silent heroes before they reach burnout. By hearing them, recognizing their contributions, accompanying them in this demanding and lonely role, we will give them the space in our heart to speak up. Many of us who are discussing the ageing issue today may not have to care for an elderly person in the future. What though is certain is that one day, we will need a caregiver and we will request –hope –for one who is well trained, joyful and available.

Let us take action and care about caring now!

Marilena Kavoura
Consultant for Quality in Aged Care
and Mentoring Caregivers


2 Action Plan for Public Health in the 21st Century, Bodossaki Foundation 2022





Ελληνικό Δίκτυο Φροντιστών -
Σχέδιο δράσης για τη Δημόσια Υγεία στον 21ο αιώνα, Ίδρυμα Μποδοσάκη, 2022.
Age Platform Europe -
Pearson, Catherine, The Quiet Rage of Caregivers, New York Times, November 9, 2023.
Span, Paula, The New Old Age: The only people who understand what a caregiver goes through, New York Times, November 11, 2023.