“Sharon” is overwhelmed by caring for her parents: both of their caregiving needs are increasing, she is weary from lack of sleep and fearful that her own health is in jeopardy. Her siblings live out of the area and seem unable to help. In addition to caring for her parents, she has small children and works full time. She feels stressed, alone, and unsure how to manage all of the caregiving responsibilities.
Caregiving presents both rewards and challenges. Often the responsibilities land on one person’s shoulders either by choice or default (statistically speaking it is usually a daughter). Enlisting help is essential, and it is important for each caregiver to evaluate their support system so that they can build an efficient care team.
Many families and caregivers are not aware of the importance of a care team and how it can make use of their respective roles and strengths. Below are some steps to consider when building your team.
- Make a list of all individuals who contribute in any way, both formal (paid) and informal (unpaid). This can include (but is not limited to): family members (both local and long distance), health care providers, volunteers, church members, neighbors, friends, and home care providers.
- Plan a family meeting to discuss the caregiving situation and assess individual strengths. If necessary, this meeting can be held electronically so as to include long distance family members. Most likely, each family member has a skill or ability to contribute, even if it is quite small. For example, if a family member is in the legal field, they can provide expertise with regard to estate planning, health care directives, and wills. Try and use this meeting to identify specific tasks in the care plan that would be a good fit for each family member. It’s important to consider family dynamics and how they may impact caregiving.
- In the event that the thought of planning a family meeting is a bit daunting, please see a few blog posts that I have written on this topic that dive a little deeper into the dynamics of this process and give some practical suggestions for setting up and carrying out a family meeting; It’s Not Fair! Sibling Rivalry in Caregiving, and Caregiving with Siblings: Family Meetings
- Consult with professionals as well as others outside the family. This can range from physicians, who will offer medical guidance, to elder law attorneys, to pharmacists. You might consider talking with a geriatric care manager to assist with coordinating care if there is not a family member well suited to this task. Neighbors, friends and church members may be willing to help with transportation or provide respite to allow the caregiver a break. In-home care agencies can assist with Activities of Daily Living such as bathing, eating, dressing, and other functional activities.
- Creating the Care Plan. A resource such as a care team calendar can be a helpful online tool to organize family and friends caregiving contributions. Following are several free, online care calendar resources that families can use to build their care teams, share tasks and coordinate helpers:
Having a well thought out plan for care will help to relieve stress as well as function more efficiently than trying to organize help during a crisis or emergency situation. Hopefully this plan will help you to feel confident that you will have the support you need at the time you need it.