Wellness Model: Empowering to Achieve Optimum
wellness is more than making sure you are physically and emotionally healthy.
In fact, research from the "Caregiver Wellness Survey", a national
survey of family and professional caregivers, suggests that there are at least
nine important and unique characteristics shared by caregivers who provide the
best possible care for themselves while also caring for loved
Caregiver Wellness: U Model
these components in mind, the "Caregiver Wellness: U Model" is
a conceptual model aimed at empowering you, the caregiver, to take a
strength-based approach to improving your wellness and increasing your capacity
to care for your loved one. The nine components of the
"Caregiver Wellness: U Model" include social, psychological, physical
intellectual, spiritual, occupational and financial wellness, while also
incorporating the empowerment and resilience, or flexibility, necessary for you
to take charge of your health on a holistic basis. Rather than look
at - and achieve - each wellness factor in order, the components are designed
to complement each other and represent a collective whole. In other
words, at the core of this model is the belief that the whole is greater than
the sum of its parts. In addition, caregiver wellness stresses the
importance of viewing wellness as an ongoing process - a work in progress. As a
caregiver, your role is likely to continue to evolve as your loved one's needs
change. Therefore, you must repeatedly re-evaluate your state of
wellness, acknowledge your strengths and keep on working toward the best
What makes the Caregiver
Wellness: U Model different from other Models?
are two well-known models that have been applied to caregivers Myer's Wheel of Wellness (a general counseling model) and Gerlarin's
Family Caregiver Wellness model (a
career counseling model). While each model can be useful, neither was designed
specifically to empower caregivers to act to care for themselves.
Caregiver Wellness: U model is focuses on two key components: (a) caregivers
being empowered and (b) being resilient. The model is applicable to caregivers
regardless of the diagnosis of their loved one. The goal of the U Model is to
express the importance translating self-care into actionable steps for
empowered caregivers. Rather than focus on where one is lacking it is important
to first acknowledge what is being done right. Caregivers are thus encouraged
to build upon their strengths and keep working to reach optimal wellness for
themselves and their loved one.
Low-level wellness or
distress is almost always synonymous with crisis situations, care transitions,
or induction to caregiving (i.e., when you first called to care for a sick or
disabled loved one). Although, each of the pieces to the puzzle is present in
the wellness model when the caregiver is in distress, none of the pieces
connect. Low-level wellness or caregiver distress will likely continue until
the caregiver is empowered to reach out for help with caregiving (help may come
from a health care professional, friend, or family member). There is no set
time frame, however, for the caregiver to move from distress to manageable
stress (medium-level wellness); there must workable solutions, access to
information and resources, and intervention strategies deemed helpful by the
caregiver. Low-level wellness is not healthy for the caregiver or the
caregiver's loved one. We hypothesize that the movement from low-level to
medium-level wellness is dependent on the caregiver being empowered to seek assistance
or ask for help.
The movement from low-level wellness to
medium-level wellness is precipitated by the caregiver being empowered to reach
out for and accept assistance and is accompanied by resilience (or the act of
making adjustments). According to the model, once a caregiver reaches
medium-level wellness, the puzzle pieces representing empowerment and
resilience are connected. The now resilient and empowered caregiver takes
self-responsibility, which is evidenced by the actions of making adjustments
and accessing services needed for the benefit of the caregiver and his or her
loved one. It should be noted that the stress that accompanies medium-level
wellness may not be immediately relieved until there is a level of comfort with
interventions and supports accessed by the caregiver. For example, if the home
care agency is not dependable or there is a sudden change in the mental or
physical status of a loved one, a caregiver may return to a stressful situation
until he or she is once again empowered to seek additional assistance and
support. We hypothesize that the movement to medium-level wellness is dependent
on the caregiver being empowered to seek assistance with caregiving and being
resilient in trying new approaches to the caregiving situation.
The term optimum
wellness refers to the movement from medium-level wellness to high wellness.
Once adequate supports for a sick or disabled loved one are in place, the
caregiver has the opportunity to move from stress to optimum wellness by
continuing to place emphasis on integrating each of the components of wellness.
It is important to stress that integration to optimum wellness is a process
that will take time; it is not recommended that the integration occur at once,
nor is it likely to. We hypothesize that the movement to optimum wellness is
dependent on the integration of empowerment, resilience, and reaching a point
of stability with physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and fiscal
wellness is a process that will take time; it is not recommended that the
integration occur at once, nor is it likely to. The best strategy is to
place continuing emphasis on putting together all of the pieces until the
puzzle is complete.
Check Out These Resources
Components of the "U' Model.
About the "Ask Emma" Tool.
Caregiver Wellness Resources.
This video provides a definition for each of the nine
components of the Caregiver Wellness “U” Model using the words of family and
The Emma Tool is a great place to start when
it comes to self-care. Watch the video to see how the "Ask Emma"
Visit the Caregiver Wellness Resource
page for helpful videos and downloadable tools.
1Green, Eboni, I. (2012). Caregiver
wellness: It is up to U. CareAdvantage, (7) 2, 24-27. 2National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
2016. Families Caring for an Aging America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Want to Learn more about Caregiving
Trajectories. Gitlin, L. N., and J. Wolff. 2012. Family involvement in
care transitions of older adults: What do we know and where do we go from
here? Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics 31(1):31-64.