Updated: Nov 12, 2018
Care giving is often a precarious balancing act between conflicting needs. The needs of your life often clash with the needs of the person for whom you are caring. Siblings and other relatives don’t often agree over care giving choices. Toss in the medical community and doctors who tend to look at saving life rather than the quality of life. Finding the balance between all these opposing forces can be a challenge. Or as one wise caregiver once said, "If you thought raising kids was a challenge, just wait till you get to your parents!" Many family caregivers also underestimate the role of grief in care giving and how the burden of grief can affect themselves and the rest of the family. The need for care giving can bring out the worst in families.
Early in my consulting career I started to notice that the challenges of family care giving almost always fell into one of three categories and as I addressed each one of them head on, things got better a whole lot quicker. Here they are:
1. Organize to Share
An expert organizational system that makes sharing the tasks of care giving with others easier, makes life so much better. It doesn't take long to become the keeper of all the secret handshakes to caring for your loved one. Before long, it takes so much time to explain it all, it's easier to do it yourself. Sound familiar? The first step is to get all that information out of your head and down on paper. A good organizational system also keeps you and your loved one in charge of medical choices which allows you to be proactive rather than reacting to emergencies all the time. You don't have to organize everything, only the details that make it easier to share the role of care giver. I've made it easy for you. This is the same system I used to care for my dad and his wife for ten years. They lived on an island reachable only by ferry boat in Washington State, while I lived 2400 miles away in Kentucky. I used this system to coordinate the efforts of countless volunteers, and ultimately, 24-hour, in-home professional care. What I needed and developed was the FamilyCare System Binder©. It's an organized set of documents that guide the user through the day, any emergency, and allows anyone who is caring for or visiting your loved one to both use the system and add to it. The Binder speaks for you when you are not there. It works! You can find the whole system on my shop. The Blog has all the articles you need to get set up and going.
Give it a try. You have nothing to lose but your misery. Use the contact forms in the footer to let me know what I can do to make the system better.
2. Right-Size Yourself to the Task
Open to the idea that your care giving experience is possibly the hardest thing you will ever do and a gift of inner growth. Welcome the opportunity to become a more rounded human being by confronting your family demons. No guilt or shame required. We all have family baggage and the care giving experience gives us a chance to shovel through some of it.
A community of people in the same care giving boat is indispensable to survival. Consider subscribing to the FamilyCare System website and build your community here. Learn to accept the situation for what it is rather than what you want it to be. Remember, this is someone else's life, not yours. Start by thinking of yourself as the "care coordinator,"rather than the primary care giver. As a coordinator it's easier to step back from the choices and details and see that you are not trying to fix your loved one. The goal is stability and quality of life. As a friend once said to me, "We're all going to go sometime, but we ought to be able to do it our own way." As a subscriber, you can participate in a private blog where we discuss the nitty-gritty of care giving, or join me for my office hours and live question and answer sessions, you can also find podcasts, training and information from special guests, like accountants, attorney's and nurses.
3. Build a Village of Helpers and Supporters
After you make the shift from caregiver to care coordinator, learn the skills necessary to build a village of helpers and supporters, rather than trying to go it alone. Also, learn how to use the forms and worksheets in the binder as communication tools for family and professionals and watch the conflicts resolve without you.
The fact is, our culture and particularly our medical community and insurers are still catching up. We still don't have insurance coverage for our biggest need, which is paid daily care. Then system will get there, but until then, learn how to build your own network. It's not as hard as you think. You may be thinking, what about power of attorney documents or how to deal with the medical community or Medicare? Those are all important, and I have an entire section covering the legal documents you will need.
Sometimes it seems that care giving will eat you alive. I often used to say that my dad would bury me before I ever buried him. That's where personal growth comes into play and letting the world support you in this journey. There are so many ways you can make care giving easier by simply putting people in place to deliver bad news. Let me show you how.