February 6, 2017 Hare Blog SAILING THE CAREGIVING SEAS: How Archetypes Help Chart the Course

By Lyndall Hare


We daughters and sons of elders sometimes find ourselves navigating rough, and even treacherous, seas. We might even experience a bit of seasickness when tacking from “family mediator” to “financial advisor.” And with the ever-changing winds, we might unexpectedly find ourselves sailing in the direction of “case manager” and “health advocate” one day, and the next, being called to take on the role of “legal advocate.” Each turn of the tide may require super-human strength to rotate the ship’s Spinning Wheel of Caregiving Roles in the required direction. Sometimes we may feel very alone out there on the high seas.

On the ship of eldercaring, the ocean is seldom predictable. With various family members as part of the crew, someone needs to step into the vital role of captain. If we’re fortunate, it’s the elder her or himself. If not the elder, often it’s a woman family member. She becomes the “go to” person, coordinating needs and communicating with the family. Perhaps she always performed the “take charge” or “caregiver” tasks in her family, even though she may not have a high Caregiver archetype.

I’ve discovered that the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator Instrument® (PMAI)® and the Spinning Wheel of Caregiving Roles work extremely well together by matching specific functions of caregiving to the caregiver’s archetypal make-up:

  • The Spinning Wheel is a practical “diagnostic” tool that I have developed to help families determine which relatives and close friends are available to perform the identified functions before moving to hiring professional help. A neutral visual tool to begin a difficult conversation with our parents, partners, and siblings, it can be used multiple times to re-assess ever-changing situations. With professional guidance, it immediately identifies an elder’s needs, family member roles, and professional resources available to address those needs.
  • The PMAI is an accessible means of identifying which of twelve heroic archetypes are most active at a time when life has called one to take on the role of caregiver.

When using these tools together, the caregiver can determine which of the twelve archetypes in the PMAI are prominent in her life journey, and which ones may need to be developed to assist her in her new role. The results will help her understand how she can more creatively provide care by calling on all twelve archetypes used in the PMAI. It may require her to seek out others to perform tasks and roles that may not come naturally to her. If a client finds that the Lover archetype is high for her but the Caregiver archetype is low, the Lover archetype in the role of caregiver could easily become exhausted through giving so much of herself and feeling a need to do it all from the place of pure devotion.

A ship’s captain probably would need to have high scores for two archetypes – the Innocent and the Warrior – to demonstrate highly organized leadership qualities while also being very trusting of others to do their work for a common cause. A caregiver with this combination would be highly organized and a great manager of her mother’s care, and would trust that others on the care team will step in when needed. But she might not be great with hands-on, day in and day out care. In this situation, the caregiver would need to call on other family members or hire someone to perform those tasks – someone with a high level of the Caregiver archetype.

Being conscious of how prominent or subtle an archetypal energy is in one’s life can help one navigate tricky situations. One of my clients has been caring for her mother in her home. She is a college professor who travels a lot. Her husband has a career that gives him more flexibility to work from home. She and her husband completed the PMAI, and here’s what she said about what they learned:

“My mother, who was diagnosed with dementia, was living with me and my husband. The work that we did with Lyndall and specifically with archetypes provided a vocabulary for emotions that were difficult to articulate. This helped me realize how lopsided I had become as a person through being the primary caregiver. With a high Warrior archetype, I was constantly ready to do battle to get what my mother needed. I also realized that my husband and I were complementary in our relative strengths and weaknesses when approaching a stressful situation. For example, my Warrior archetype was very high and his was low, but his Jester was very high. He could see the humor in my mother’s behavior, so he often diffuses tense situations and puts things into perspective for me.”

Each eldercare situation is unique, and there are many roles to be played to address the myriad of needs. All of these tasks are not required at the same time on the journey, because of the changeable and fluid nature of caregiving (or sailing). In preparation for the trip, it is helpful to have supplies on hand and an excellent crew – knowledge of formal and informal services that exist, which roles relatives are willing to perform, and tasks that need to be performed. The PMAI helps match family members up with the roles they can best perform.

“All archetypes on deck” can make the journey a lot easier.


Lyndall Hare holds a degree in Social Work from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, and a Ph.D. in Gerontological Studies from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, OH. She also earned a Life Coaching Certificate from the Institute for Life Leadership and Coaching in Charlotte, NC. She has worked in the field of aging for thirty years, helping many caregivers for people with cognitive impairment/dementia. You can reach her at www.LyndallHare.com