When caregiving falls almost entirely on the shoulders of one person, that person often becomes overwhelmed and experiences a lot of stress. Fortunately, that suffering can be alleviated if caregivers can rely on family and friends to help with caregiving responsibilities. The first step, however, is acknowledging that you need help and that it is okay to ask for it.
Caregiving is too big of a job for one person. Read our tips on how to shift your care approach to make senior care a team effort.
Admittedly, treating senior care as a team effort comes with its own challenges. But with the right approach and open communication, you can address many potential issues head-on:
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Although your goal is to spread out the workload, someone still needs to be in charge of managing everything, says caregiver, Gina Scianimanico.
“From my experience, it is very important that there is a named advocate for the senior. One person that can take the lead regarding decisions and gathering family members to make decisions.” This is the person most likely to have legal Power of Attorney.
“Family members can also take turns taking advocacy and share in responsibilities,” says Scianimanico. If your family isn’t comfortable with one person being 100% in charge, this is a useful compromise.
To help figure out how best to divide responsibilities amongst the team, create a clear list of what those specific responsibilities entail. Think about the different tasks you do each day, those you do every few days and the things you have to tackle each month or a few times a year.
It can be beneficial here to get the help of a professional to make your list as accurate as possible. Sig Cohen, of Tough Conversations, suggests you “get a total picture of your loved one’s condition by consulting with a Geriatric Care Manager.”
“Their role is to make a holistic assessment of the loved one’s medical, psychological and overall health status… Usually, they provide recommendations with their assessment of the loved one’s overall health condition.”
Modern communication gives you lots of options. It could take the form of a Facebook group, group text or weekly meetings.
Whatever format you choose, the important part is being consistent. The more people involved with your loved one’s care, the more important it is for everyone to compare notes and stay on the same page.
For instance, everyone should know if a loved one’s care needs change or if someone’s ability to contribute to the care changes. You’ll have an easier time working out all these details if you get into the habit of communicating frequently.
Discuss the specific caregiving needs your loved one has and try to include your loved one in this meeting, if possible.
Use this meeting to clarify a final list of what’s needed (your team may think of things you left off the first time around) and to get a feel for the time commitment and types of work different people are comfortable with.
Now you can start dividing responsibilities between senior care team members. Be sure to consider different people’s schedules, strengths and weaknesses. Author Rick Lauber shares how he and his siblings managed this step with success. “Each one of us tackled different jobs so as to get everything done in a timely manner. We also were mindful of each other’s schedules,” he explained.
“By sharing the jobs, we also emphasized our own skills and weaknesses… there were some tasks that became evident that were better suited for others to continue to do as both Dad and Mom further declined,” he adds.
Your initial division of responsibilities shouldn’t be set in stone. Some people may overestimate the time commitment they thought they could manage, or realize they’re not actually good at the task you’ve assigned. This is your starting point, but be prepared for some flexibility and changes as you go.
In addition to your ongoing communication, set a time on the calendar for a check-in meeting once every three months to officially go over things. You can check in to see if your loved one’s satisfied with their care, if anyone’s overwhelmed and needs to scale back, or if there are any changes you all agree are worth making to the division of care duties.
Checking in helps save you from the likelihood of missing important information about your loved one’s care and having any one person’s resentment or stress levels build beyond what they can handle before they get a chance to say so.
While it requires more organization, making senior care a team effort saves one person from facing the fatigue that’s inevitable when trying to become a full-time caregiver with no help.
Start asking people who care about you and your loved one to help and join your senior care team today.