First Aid for Caregivers—Renewing the Power of Attachment

First Aid for Caregivers—Renewing the Power of Attachment

Categories: AACC BLOG

by W. Jesse Gill, Psy.D.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. — Isaiah 40:28–29 (NIV)

As the sun sets over her quiet suburban neighborhood, Sarah sinks onto her couch, exhausted. She’s been caring for her aging parent for months now, and the demands of caregiving are starting to take their toll. Despite her best efforts to balance work, family, and caregiving responsibilities, Sarah can’t shake the weariness that seems to linger no matter how much she rests. She’s not alone; caregiving can be an all-consuming and exhausting experience, leaving many caregivers feeling drained and overwhelmed.

It all starts with something so beautiful, the desire to care for a loved one in a time of need. Caregiving is one key aspect of the Attachment system that God designed for us as humans. Attachment is the bonding process that He created so that we may grow, feel supported, and have a place of shelter in the middle of life’s pains and struggles. Fundamentally, Attachment assures us that “we are not alone” as we journey from infancy and throughout our entire life span.

We fully expect that infants will be needy and totally dependent for many months. But it’s only temporary; infants increasingly grow to places of greater strength and move towards independence. Even as adults, we are well equipped to care for loved ones who will sometimes depend on us, while we too depend upon them. This healthy interdependence is rewarding. These shared moments of vulnerability nourish our souls, providing moments of comfort and emotional intimacy.

Sometimes tragedies, unexpected disabling illness, or the aging process place a heavy imbalance on the caregiving aspect of Attachment bonds. Even strong, healthy, and Securely Attached adults can grow weary when there is a protracted or life-long illness in their loved ones. As humans, we step forward with compassion and strength, secreting adrenaline as we push ourselves to provide loving, sacrificial, and caring actions. But mobilizing our nervous systems at this level to care for great needs is only meant to be a short-term measure.

Over the long run, this level of exertion is not sustainable. Even the strongest will tire and grow weary.

One of the most common issues that caregivers face is weariness. The emotional and physical demands of caregiving can be intense, leading to exhaustion, frustration, and even despair.

Compassion fatigue is a particularly devastating form of weariness that affects caregivers. The very thing that started off as a resource, our Attachment to and empathic care for another, can become imbalanced and drain our strength.

Compassion fatigue is a type of emotional exhaustion that results from prolonged exposure to the suffering of others. Caregivers witness the decline and suffering of their loved ones on a daily basis, and this can take a significant toll on their mental and emotional well-being. As the days go by, caregivers may find themselves feeling increasingly numb or detached from their loved ones, or experiencing a decreased ability to feel empathy and compassion.

The effects of compassion fatigue can be heart breaking, not just for the caregiver but also for their loved ones. Caregivers may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and a weakened immune system. These symptoms can make it even more challenging for caregivers to provide the care and support their loved ones need, leading to a vicious cycle of exhaustion and burnout.

It is critical that caregivers receive support for themselves, not just for their own sake but for the sake of their loved ones as well. The Attachment bonding system must be reconfigured and intentionally directed to the caregiver, him or herself. This includes two dimensions:

1. Healthy self-care — which is the act of showing love and kindness to the caregiver’s own needs.

2. Reaching out to external sources of Attachment support who can bolster, minister to, and provide for the needs of the caregiver.

Caregivers need to prioritize their own self-care, including regular exercise, a healthy diet, and finding time for hobbies and activities that bring joy and relaxation. They also need to seek therapy or counseling if needed to address their mental health needs.

Caregivers may feel guilty if they step away from their loved ones to do self-care, especially if this means taking time away from an ill spouse. But it is vital that caregivers pull away for short and longer pockets of time to refuel their tanks for the long road ahead.

If possible, caregivers need to connect with other caregivers who can provide knowing support and understanding. Caregiving can be an isolating experience, but having a support system of people who understand the challenges and struggles can provide much-needed validation and comfort. Whether online or in-person, caregiver support groups can provide a lifeline of support to those who are struggling.

The church community, including small groups and church staff, can provide valuable emotional and spiritual support to people who are experiencing the challenges of caregiving. As the hands and feet of Christ, the church provides tangible help and renews hope.

Christian believers can also strengthen their God Attachment during the times of loneliness and trial. I don’t believe that God assigns to us the tragedies of life, but I believe that He is always available to comfort us and sustain us in the middle of the struggles.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

— Isaiah 40:30 (NIV)

If you want to learn more about strengthening your God Attachment there are helpful resources available to you. If you are a caregiver for a person other than your spouse, please don’t neglect your marriage. You can access valuable resources for strengthening your marital Attachment and your God Attachment at

W. Jesse Gill, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist who earned his doctorate from the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology. He completed his internship with Philhaven in Mount Gretna. Dr. Gill has been on staff with Psychological Health Affiliates since 2001. Dr. Gill is passionate about marriage and family therapy. He specializes in the treatment of children ages four through teenage years. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and Tourette’s Disorder are among those concerns that he addresses with children and their families. He works with adults in the context of individual and marital therapy. Depression, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and relational conflict are issues he commonly treats in these contexts. He also has a specialty in anger management for adults. He is the author of the book “Face to Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage” and is widely sought to provide trainings for couples, counselors, and clergy. You can learn more about this at