Change is Hard


Why is it so hard to change?  That is a question that has baffled psychologists, human resource professionals, and just about everyone else from time immemorial.  Even when Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, there were complaints about why they had to leave, they had it so much better as slaves.

We tend to be creatures of habit.  The familiar, even when it is awful, becomes “the new normal”.  It is predictable and therefore comfortable, at least to some degree.  Even when we know that there is another, better option, it is difficult to make the shift.  Consider all the broken New Year’s resolutions to eat better and go to the gym regularly; the people who stay in bad relationships because the unknown is too frightening.

For caregivers, it can be much the same.  Nancy’s House recently ran a conference for family caregivers.  Informational workshops, self-care workshops, massages, community resources, and the company of others who could understand and support.  We even had a staffed activities room for loved ones who needed care and could not stay home, allowing caregivers to come without the expense of homecare.  There were even donors who paid the registration fees for those who could not afford it.

Yet, we heard “I’d really like to, but….”  The head of another program that supports caregivers was baffled.  “I feel like I have removed or reduced every obstacle they have put up, and they still won’t do it.  What is the problem?”

I think one of the things that happens with us as caregivers is that we keep adapting to the “new normal” the way a plate spinner keeps adding one more plate while keeping all the others spinning and balanced.   As long as the new plate is for the other person, we do not give it much thought.  It is simply what needs to be done.  (If you don’t know what a plate spinner is, check out this clip from the old Ed Sullivan show.

However, if I am already doing as much as I can, then to add anything else becomes one plate too many.  Even if it is going to help me manage all the other plates.  It is easier, therefore more comfortable and less painful, to maintain things as they are.  Until “as they are” becomes the more difficult choice, there is no reason to change.  A clear, accessible discussion is available at

What is important for caregivers is to recognize that change is part of our lives, whether we want it or not.  For our loved ones, it is change that is usually in a downward trend.  But, for us, the caregivers, we can make a choice.  We will function better if we can find the way to identify some small change that we can integrate into our daily lives that brings health and happiness.  As caregivers, we must embrace change, even when it’s hard.


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About Elissa Lewin

Elissa Lewin is a Licensed Psychologist and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has maintained a private practice outside of Philadelphia for 25 years. Her own experience as a caregiver led to her founding Nancy’s House, a comprehensive respite program for family caregivers. www.nancy'

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