Thursday, June 3, 2010

Family Teamwork = Better Caregiving

Part 1

Author's Note: This series of posts was written in alliance with Carebuzz, a site that offers resources for caregivers. Please visit their site at:

When helping mom and dad, siblings often face issues such as coordinating their medical appointment schedule, home care and health crises. Applying “team building” concepts to family caregiving can ease stress and greatly improve a loved one’s care.

In this series of posts, we’ll explore the major keys to building a high performing family caregiving team.

The first key is communication. Lack of it often trips up the family team and prevents the best care. Usually one person in the family is the primary caregiver and is often overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. He or she simply does not have the time to keep all family members updated.

Absence of communication then sets up a situation where others make incorrect assumptions about the family member’s condition or the caregiver’s intentions. We have all seen what happens when people make assumptions, don’t bother to check if they’re correct, and then act on them.

Pretty soon you have a lot of needless worrying, finger pointing and anger that tends to get worse as time goes on. Some family members may completely withdraw from any caregiving responsibilities; others will form “cliques” within the family and criticize the main caregiver or other family members. None of these behaviors contributes to improved care.

In many situations siblings do not have a plan for keeping each other up to date. Because everyone doesn’t have the same information, they disagree on what constitutes “best care” for parents and experience dysfunctional behavior. So what can families do to prevent that from happening and improve communication?

It’s a good idea for family members to agree, ideally when the caregiving begins, on a means of communicating, the items to be communicated, and frequency. If family members are comfortable using the internet, there are great sites such as CaringBridge and GenerationsUnite where they can set up a page to update everyone. Family members can reply, ask questions, send greetings, suggestions and offers of help. Even Facebook and Twitter can be used to keep the information flowing, although privacy concerns must be addressed on public sites.

A less high tech method is for the primary caregiver to phone a designated family member at regular intervals or during a medical crisis, and have that designated person then call everyone else or set up a phone tree to complete the calls. The phone call method is simple and has worked well for my husband’s large family. Whatever the method, the goal is to continue the conversation with each other. In a later post, we’ll look at how to handle conflict when it occurs—and it will.

What communication tools do you use to enhance family teamwork?


Carebuzz said...

Very good and much needed information for family caregivers.. who need help coordinating elder care for parents and getting buy in and help from siblings.

Thank you,


Mary said...

Thanks for your comment, Carol. Caregivers need so much help. I'm glad we were able to provide some useful tips through the blog posts and interviews.