Caregiving – Do I Include Family and Friends?
If you try to handle caregiving responsibilities by yourself, it will lead to stress related health problems and even premature death. It’s important to reach out to form a team, a network of friends, family and community resources that can help you provide the necessary care for your loved one. A critical member of that team is your loved one or care recipient, please do not forget that. So the answer to the question “do I include family and friends in the caregiving” is unequivalvently yes! Here are some approaches on how to do that.
Team members need not all live in the home or even nearby or even have a lot of time to be of value. Family or friends living at a distance or have limited schedules can pitch in with meal organizing, bill paying, financial assistance, and social interaction. For example, the organized detail person in the family could set up an electronic calendar for taking medications, having meals delivered or various chores accomplished.
Decide who’s in charge and provide the necessary leadership for the caregiving team. It’s important to have a point person to communicate information, keep the process moving, and make sure everyone on the team understands the plan and priorities. In most families, one person assumes the primary role because he or she lives nearby, has a close relationship, or simply is a take charge person.
It can be useful to engage an unrelated facilitator, such as a care manager, social worker, or minister, to help keep everyone focused, manage potential disagreements and communicate difficult subjects that are critical to the care of the care recipient.
Once you’ve started the caregiving discussion, you may want to ask other people close to your loved one, such as family, friends, and neighbors to be part of the process, better early than later. There may be conflicts, but don’t be afraid to talk through them. Better to discuss those issues up front or when they arise than in a time of crisis.
If you find that the other family members are resistant or unwilling to pitch in, please remember that we can make ourselves crazy trying to change them, but we still approach them and ask for their team participation. We need to accept what they will and will not do, and think more broadly about who else can provide help. There are many levels of help that the team members can provide. Some people can help with direct, hands on care, such as eating, getting out of the house or personal care such as bathing and toileting. Other care that is more “hands off” care that is just as important is dealing with the household bills, paperwork, grocery shopping, cleaning the house, or making phone calls regarding doctor’s appointments. Sometimes the best way to facilitate team work and get help is to match people with tasks they like to do and are most willing or able to do.
Once the team members are identified a caregiving plan needs to be discussed and developed. The plan needs to be both short and long-term. Clearly every detail task or scenario cannot be determined, but attempting to look down the road helps all respond more effectively to changes and emergencies. It also helps assure that everyone keeps the focus on what’s best for the care recipient. A written record of the plan, who will do what, and any changes will assure that everyone is on the same page and avoid misunderstandings.