The person providing the hands-on or direct care is often viewed as the only caregiver. However, there are many other tasks that need to be addressed as families take over responsibilities that their aging loved ones can no longer take care of.
The Challenge – Families view the person providing the direct (hands-on) care as the only caregiver.
It is common that the “entire family unit” does not see themselves as “caregivers” with multiple tasks. Usually, the attention is drawn to the family member who is willing to provide the physical care. Whether you are providing the “hands-on” care or are coordinating with other family members for the provision of care, you are still a caregiver.
The Solution – Identify how your family will divide the responsibility for providing care.
1. Consider the different types of responsibilities involved in the entire process of caregiving.
o Anticipating and thinking ahead to what may be needed:
o Health care decisions
o Housekeeping, cooking, shopping
o Financial and legal responsibilities
o Overseeing what is needed to ensure the care needs are being met
o Arranging for care
o Providing the hands on physical care
2. Ask your aging loved ones who they are comfortable with to handle the different tasks. Often, they have already decided who they want to be responsible for certain tasks, example, medical decisions and legal affairs.
3. Explore what responsibility each family member is comfortable with and what task/tasks they are willing to commit to. Many factors can enter in, distance from the older adult, other personal and family responsibilities, relationship with the older adult.
4. Set up a system of communication between all family members.
o Is there a “team leader” who coordinates the communication
o Who needs to know what
o How often does each person need to be in touch
o How are differences in opinion going to be handled between the family members
5. As individual and family circumstances change, the roles and responsibilities may need to change. At some point outside resources may need to be used to support the changing care needs.
Whenever possible, keep your loved ones in the center of the decision making process. Ask for their input and recommendations. Give them as much control over the decisions as possible.
These are often difficult discussions to have because family members may not want to commit to specific care giving tasks. Planning for the future is challenging because the future is an unknown.
Engage your family members in the discussion about care giving roles and tasks.
Have your older loved ones identify whom they may want to do specific tasks. Family members may need time to think about what roles and tasks they are willing to agree to. Identify the coordinator or the person who will communicate the status of things and what needs to be done. Put the plan on paper, knowing that it is a starting point, is flexible and can be changed.
Carol McGowan RN and Cindy Streekstra RN are Caregiver Coaches and geriatric nurses who share a mission of caring for caregivers as part of a family unit. Their passion for caregivers has led them to create The Caregiver Cottage, a virtual place of support where they guide family caregivers through the caregiving experience.