Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Family Teamwork = Better Caregiving

Part 2

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 http://carebuzz.com.

In the first post in this series we discussed building a high performing family team by keeping the information and conversation going to better serve the loved one. Here’s another recommendation for family caregivers on how to build a supportive team.

Whether in the workplace or in the family, use all the resources at hand. It’s important that family members discuss how to share responsibilities to achieve a common goal of providing the best care. Too often one person tries to do it all, quickly becomes overwhelmed, and then resents that no one else pitches in to help.

Because of geography, skills or financial resources, caregiving usually falls to one or two family members, and the rest are left to wonder what’s going on and why they’re out of the loop. They may want to help but don’t know how and hesitate to offer their services. The primary caregiver may be too stressed out to think about how to divide up the work or simply doesn’t want to ask others for help.

Neither the care recipient nor the family members benefits from one person taking on all the work. Think about a football team; each player or group of players has a different role, and all the roles need to work together effectively for the team to win consistently. The quarterback may call the plays, but if he tries to do everything himself, disaster follows.

In my own family experience, others have helped with everything from researching the medical condition or facility to supplying “insider” medical knowledge, doing laundry, running errands and pet sitting. Everyone has a talent that can help in sharing the load and making caregiving a more pleasant experience for all. Those at a distance from the care recipient can still accomplish a lot via the internet, phone or library. Those who can’t contribute financially can help with household chores or other work.

And remember that, in many cases, the care recipient also has gifts to offer to the family team. If they are still able to do things such as writing notes or making phone calls, those small tasks help keep them connected to others. When my mother was in a nursing facility, she insisted on filling out her own menus; it saved us time and helped her feel useful. The most effective teams use everyone’s strengths to the best advantage.

What has been your experience with using all the talents in your family to provide better care?

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