Executive Education

Family CEOs Crumble Over Stress Of Caring For A Loved One

There are quite a number of similarities between being the CEO of a business and the CEO of a family.

Thank about it. Both business and families are in the people business.

But as challenging as it is running a business when understaffed, it can be even more challenging to run a household with unpaid ‘staff.’ Older children going on ‘strike,’ not wanting to watch their younger siblings, or an AWOL spouse bowling or playing cards, leaving the ‘CEO’ to fend for him or herself.

But wait, there’s more. Add to the mix a special needs child or a nearly incapacitated spouse or live-in in-law. Ouch. That can be tough, sometimes leaving the lone-employee to be both family CEO an long-term caregiver.

Recently, a man emotionally expressed his fears with me about his son with autism, and how they could ever get him to adulthood — and what would happen once they did.

Continuing, he added he and his wife planned for their first date in a long while that evening, while also hinting their relationship had endured significant bumps along the way.

After listening, I asked, “What happens to your son if you and your wife’s marriage crumbles?”

Pausing, he quietly shared, “He would be devastated.”

“So,” I replied, “Given that you’re telling me his well-being is deeply connected to his parents having a strong marriage, it would appear the one of the most effective things you can do for your son, is to work on maintaining a healthy relationship for the two most significant people in his life.”

Asking him to promise himself to enjoy the date and not feel guilty, I shared with him that he loved his son better, by caring for and loving his wife.

The needs of the diagnosis or challenges often overpower the needs of the heart. Impairments tend to suck all the oxygen out of the room leaving at-risk relationships gasping for air. Yet, those relationships serve as cornerstones for the health of the caregiver, and the caregiver’s ability to attend to the one(s) with impairment.

These relationships extend to immediate and secondary families, as well. Families who formerly enjoyed amicable relationships in pre-caregiving days often crumble under the stress of caring for a loved one. 

CEOs: Take Care of Thyselves. 

Although some relationships may prove too toxic to repair, most can be restored and improved. Working out relationship difficulties in the midst of the pressures of caregiving can be one of the best financial decisions a caregiver —and a family — can make.

Sometimes the disease robs a caregiver of a healthy relationship in the marriage, but a caregiver can still honor the marriage even if a spouse is unable to reciprocate.

Honoring a loved one doesn’t mean honoring the disease or impairment. Arguments, guilt, and abuse come from an impairment. Caregiver CEOs aren’t required to accept those things as part of the role.

Hard relationship, financial, and professional decisions will befall caregivers. Those decisions prove better when the caregivers remain healthier. It starts when caregivers face themselves in the mirror and commit to becoming a healthier individual regardless of the condition of an impaired loved one.

Simply put, healthy CEO caregivers make better caregivers — and healthier caregivers make better financial decisions.

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Peter Rosenberger
Peter Rosenberger hosts a radio program for family caregivers broadcast weekly from Nashville, TN on more than 200 stations. He has served as a caregiver for his wife Gracie, who has lived with severe disabilities for more than 30 years. His new book, 7 Caregiver Landmines and How You Can Avoid Them released nationally Fall 2018. Peter is a regular contributor to the CEOWORLD magazine.