Hellen Keller once remarked, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Going it alone as a family caregiver can be done, but at what cost? Caregiver burnout and stress are prevalent in our fast-paced world; too much to do with too little time.
Building your caregiving community takes some time and effort, but caregivers who have done it can’t imagine how and why they spent so much effort going it alone when they didn’t need to.
How do you build a caregiving community? How do you put together a network of people and organizations that can take some of the burdens you’re carrying off your shoulders and help you with some of the heavy lifting you do every day?
These are some tried and true methods that other caregivers have found extremely helpful as they care for a loved one.
Five Tips to Build Your Caregiving Community
1. Organize your list of potential team members.
You probably have many more candidates in your life to join your community than you think – children, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors, etc. Of course, not everyone you enlist will be able to assist, but some will be happy to. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the skills and talents people have that you didn’t know about and how much of a compliment it is that you asked them to join you in caring for your loved one.
2. Evaluate Strengths and Assign Roles.
There are areas in which you can use assistance: finances, health care, transportation, legal issues, diet, and many others. Ask your family and friends which areas they’re most comfortable assisting with.
And don’t forget those who have the most valuable resource of all: time. So many times, your loved one needs someone just to visit with, and friends and family members with free time would enjoy spending a few hours each week playing games, watching movies, or reading with your loved one.
3. Identify community resources.
Many communities offer resources to help you with some of the aforementioned areas: transportation, legal issues, diet, etc. These resources will take the stress off of you and your caregiving team, and many of the services they offer are free of charge.
4. Communicate often.
The eyes and ears of every member of your community caregiving team are essential. Everyone should be looking for warning signs like mood swings, confusion, unpaid bills, poor hygiene, etc.
It’s important that you all spend time comparing notes and having regularly scheduled meetings. However, getting everyone together can be a real challenge, so consider using Zoom or FaceTime to have a short conversation about how things are going and what your upcoming needs are.
5. Bring in professional assistance.
The biggest obstacle you’re going to run into with your community is time. They all probably have some family obligations they need to meet, and some may have a job they have to tend to. They can only be expected to do so much.
Professional home care agencies exist for this reason. Your loved one wants to age in their own home and have their needs met in the place they’re most comfortable. For many seniors, their biggest fear in life is being placed in an institution, such as a nursing home or assisted living facility.