Just like it takes a village to raise a child, a village comes in handy when caring for an aging loved one too. Although sometimes it can seem that the more people involved only adds to the strain and struggle of caregiving. In reality the more people to help care for your loved one the better.
The smallest to the largest of families run into discord and miscommunication at some point during the caregiving process. It doesn’t matter if they are blood related or simply a gathering of friends. Get different personalities and points of view together and you are bound to have issues. The key is how you stay connected and work through the issue, while keeping your loved one’s quality of life in mind.
Agree to disagree: There will be times during the caregiving journey when not everyone in your family or extended circle of care will be able to agree. As head or even just a small participating caregiver you need to recognize that you may win some and you may lose some. This is truly the first step in having good, open communication. Let’s face it there is hardly ever just one right way to handle a situation. The main goal is that a decision is made, stuck with and that as a result your loved one benefits.
Throw out your old expectations: As the oldest member of the family it is easy to fall into or assume the role of leader and decision maker, but if baby brother has a nursing degree perhaps he would be better at making Mom’s healthcare decisions. When a family begins the caregiving journey it is important to assign appropriate roles and duties, based on current strengths and not on birth order.
You are better together: Caregiving eventually may become a full-time job and the more hands and hearts caring for your loved one the better. Plus when you are in it together it is much easier to ask for help and waylay the possibility of caregiver burnout.
Divide and conquer: Determine what each person can do in relation to their current lives, where they live and their strengths. While a sibling who lives in another state can’t visit Mom every day, they could come for a weekend once a month to give those who live closer a chance to get away and rejuvenate.
Share everything: One of the most important things is to share all of the information with everyone. Otherwise you can run the risk of people feeling left out of the loop and therefore not a valuable part of the caregiving team. An easy way to accomplish this is to use e-mail so that the same written information is given to each family member at the same time. This also gives you a written record of what happened at Mom’s doctor appointments etc…
Check-in consistently: Consistent communication is key! If you only communicate during times of crisis it will result in miscommunication and discord within the family during an already stressful time. Instead make it a habit to communicate on a regular basis and to revisit your loved one’s care plan every 3 months, setting a specific date and time to meet in advance.
Don’t criticize: Again not everyone will enter the caregiving journey on the same footing. However, usually everyone is doing the best that they can for their loved one. It is easy to sit and judge, but the reality is you are just sitting and not doing anything. A better approach is to meet the need that you don’t feel is being met and discuss why and what you are doing with the rest of your family.
Keep your promises: It is very easy to over promise, especially when it comes to caregiving. Many a caregiver has promised “never to put Mom in a nursing home” or that they “will visit every day.”
The truth of the matter is that sometimes these promises cannot be kept. Perhaps Mom needs more medical care than the family can provide or that visiting daily is hard when you are working fulltime and raising four kids. We can’t know what the will happen in the future for ourselves or our loved ones.
What you can do is work together to ensure that your loved is treated with dignity and respect, while maintaining the highest quality of life possible, surrounded by those that love them most. Their family!
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