This week we will begin a six week series on the most common caregiver mistakes. Week One is entitled: Underestimating the Amount of Help You Will Need
Taking care of a family member should be a team activity and most of us don’t approach it that way. As individuals and families, we struggle to do it all. Families can feel isolated. There is a sense that they are the only ones who are dealing with a particular issue.
While it may feel natural to look inward when caring for a relative. Building a care team to help you is a better long term strategy. Your care team will consist of family members, friends, neighbors, your parent’s doctor and professional caregivers.
Ask other family members, friends and neighbors to help you. Ask often. Be clear and specific about the type of help you need. Keep a list of tasks that you need help with so when someone asks what they can do to help, you are ready.
You are training people to help you and you are training yourself to accept help. In some cases, the primary caregiver has never asked for help. He may assume that help will be volunteered. When help is not offered he may feel disappointed or abandoned.
If you are not the primary caregiver, be persistent and specific when you offer to help. Caregivers pride themselves on their ability to cope and may refuse help when it is initially offered. Families may need to have some conversations to clear the air around needing and offering help. It can take creativity to find a way for a long distance or busy family member to help. If both parties keep an open mind, you can find ways to give and receive help.
Keep in mind that listening can be a very valuable way for long distance caregivers to offer support. Some long distance caregivers also research information for the family, organize communications or pay bills. They identify tasks they can complete at a distance.
When a long distance caregiver visits, he can add value by bringing an “outsiders” perspective. Not seeing the ailing family member day by day, he can offer tactful feedback about changes in the caregiving situation and provide insight about changes that may not be apparent to the hands-on caregiver.
Locate and use services and organizations that help you provide care. The local area agency on aging in your parent’s town is a great place to start gathering information. Local senior centers are also resources for support and services and may offer a senior services guide that you can take with you. Take the time to check out services in advance of when you may need them. By familiarizing yourself now, you may save time and emotional wear and tear of trying to make a decision when you are under pressure.
With your parent’s permission, build a close professional relationship with your parent’s doctor. The best time to get to know your parent’s doctor is when your parent is healthy. If possible participate in some doctor appointments so that you just not a voice on the phone.
If you are a caregiver, your challenge is to make list of things that need to be done and ask for help from three people within the next five days.
If you are not the primary caregiver, your challenge is to have a conversation with the primary caregiver and to come away with three new ways that you are going to help.
In next week’s email we will talk about being proactive.
Elayne Forgie, CMC