Coaching Caregivers to Survive and Thrive

This faith-based course was developed out of the recognition that at some point in life, 75% of us are likely to need or to be a caregiver (or both). Currently almost 7 million Americans are living with some kind of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, affecting one in five families. An increasing number of grandparents are discovering that they must raise grandchildren, often because of addictions which have rendered their own children incompetent. Because of these various life challenges, our lives may be catapulted into unfamiliar, life-altering territory in an instant, requiring us to either assume partial or complete responsibility for another person’s welfare for a sustained period of time.

As noted, the care receiver comes from a wide variety of situations; they may be a child born with disabilities, a legal minor court-appointed to our care, a chronically ill person, a physically or cognitively impaired elder, or an indigent person who needs physical, legal, financial, medical, and/or relational assistance either on a part or full-time basis. Whether the care receiver is a loved one or a stranger, the care giver will soon experience a clash of two life stages, which requires defining and adjusting to a “new normal” for all involved. The care receiver may also question God or their own faith journey in light of circumstances, which they may feel unprepared to manage.

While coaches usually assume that their clients are experts of their own lives, often in the case of caregiving, both coach and client co-navigate terrain that neither has crossed before. Therefore, this 10-week course is designed to educate, enlighten and equip Christian coaches to work with caregivers by introducing biblical content and practical resources related to phases of caregiving. At first sign of need, Christians may ask, “What does God say about caring for others – particularly family?” The Bible’s answer is quite clear. As part of the initial coaching agreement, students will become familiar with an intake assessment to help caregivers better describe their care receivers’ situations and consequently, their required roles, duties, and skills. Part of this assessment is identifying family constellations and dynamics involved in decisions.

Because many coaching skills are valuable in relationships in general, the course will highlight growth of such relational skills in care givers, such as full presence, deep listening, and powerful questioning in working with care receivers, as well as in communicating with family members, medical authorities, and others serving on a care planning team and making decisions on behalf of the care receiver. The care giver will also learn to recognize signs of abuse or neglect of the care receiver.

Critically important to the care giver as the coach’s client is his/her awareness of their need and resources for self-care. Care giver burn-out is quite common. Students will learn to use a “Caregiver Burden Self-Assessment Tool” developed by Zarit Burden to enhance awareness and avoid care giver burnout. Using the Bible and prayer as spiritual tools, the coach will help the care giver find solace, assurance, patience, guidance, and joy in deepening their faith and living their lives well. Coaching students will also discuss ethical considerations the care giver may face, as the care receiver requests biblical truth regarding forgiveness and reconciliation with estranged family, support in end of life decisions, or prayer interwoven into their interactions. They will also explore other practical strategies which offer a “fullness of life” to the care receiver at any stage, including the hospice or end of life stage.

Course Objectives By the end of this course, students will be able to

  1. Develop a biblical approach to caregiving.
  2. Use an intake/assessment tool covering components of the care receiving situation (onset, context, relationship between care receiver and care giver, services required on part time or full time basis, family dynamics/team resources, POA, paid or gratis financial arrangements, long term medical or social prognosis, summary of available resources, etc..).
  3. Determine which of eight phases a care receiver may be in and the corresponding requirements of the care giver.
  4. Use coaching conversations to help caregivers assess their strengths and needs, including limits and boundaries and health-giving routines and practices, which include rest and recreation outlets, spiritual practices, and fellowship with others.
  5. Demonstrate communication and relational skills, such as full presence, deep listening, and powerful questioning which the care giver can use with the care receiver and their team/family care team.
  6.  Develop powerful, but sensitive questions re: questions of faith, forgiveness, reconciliation, and/or end of life issues as may be required for care receiver to address with the care receiver.
  7. Identify biblical and prayer resources to help care givers strengthen their faith.
  8. Recognize signs of abuse or neglect of the care receiver.
  9. Use biblical and practical tools in working with care receiver’s issues.
  10. Coach a buddy partner on major issues common to the care giver/care receiver.
  11. Bring closure to a care giving experience.

Note: The course will include at least one interview with a caregiver, 2 sessions of buddy coaching, and an optional individual session with the course instructor.

Required Materials:

  1. The Caregivers’ Survival Guide, a free, 60+ paged, downloadable e-book produced by )
  2. Arloski, Michael. Ph.D. (2009). Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Changes. Selected chapters, Duluth, MN: Whole Person Associates. (Amazon link )
  3. Schamber, Anita. Ed.D. (2018). Coaching for Christian Caregiving with Heart, unpublished notes, biblical studies and exercises, and focused handouts based on research, life experience, tools, and Scripture.
  4. Holy Bible edition of your choice.

Course Author: Dr. Anita Schamber The author has a doctorate in Human Resource Development and has developed curricula for ILCT, World Vision International, Volunteers of America, and various universities and associations.

Christian Assumptions of Author:

  1. Each person is a child of God worthy of full love and attention.
  2. Full life to a natural decline and death occurs on a variable timeline for each person. Christians believe in eternal life.
  3. A person’s faith, sense of purpose, and understanding of death as a transition into eternity shapes the way they live out their days.
  4. A Christian coach, like any other coach, works within a co-active relationship with the client (care giver or care receiver). However, the “content rich” use of the Bible, prayer, and other life-giving resources, is able to support both caregivers and care receivers in beneficial ways.

Course Author’s Experience as Caregiver:  The author was a distant caregiver for her grandmother for three years while she was in a nursing home and for her father the last ten years of his life while he lived in a retirement home. For 8 years she was a 24/7 caregiver for her mother in her/her husband’s home. Her role as an end of life caregiver for her 101 year old mother ended when she passed away June 30th, 2018 in a  full care nursing home within 2 miles of the author’s home. (Both grandmother and parents believed in God, but were not active Christians or church goers.) She has developed workshops for CNAs and other professional caregivers, but this course is aimed at non-professional, primarily family, care givers.

Course Prerequisites


Register for this course

Select a class term from the list below.