This assessment will help you come to a realistic view of the situation. It will let you know the questions to which you need answers. It can be a handy baseline for charting your caregiving journey and reminding you just how much you’ve learned along the way.
Hold a family conference. At least everyone in the immediate family should be told what’s going on. A meeting can set the stage for divvying up responsibilities so that there are fewer misunderstandings down the road when lots of help may be needed. A member of the clergy, a professional care coordinator, or even a trusted friend can serve as an impartial moderator. A family meeting is a good way to let everyone know they can play a role, even if they are a thousand miles away. It can help you, the primary family caregiver, from bearing the brunt of all the work all of the time.
Keep good records of emergency numbers, doctors, daily medications, special diets, back-up people, and other pertinent information relating to your loved one’s care. Update as necessary. This record will be invaluable if something happens to you, or if you need to make a trip to the ER. If you can maintain a computer-based record, that will make updating all that much easier and it might even allow you to provide the medical team with direct access to the information.
Join a support group, or find another caregiver with whom to converse. In addition to emotional support, you’ll likely pick up practical tips as well. Professionals network with each other all the time to get emotional support and find answers to problems or situations they face. Why shouldn’t family caregivers?
Start advance planning for difficult decisions that may lie ahead. It’s never too early to discusswills, advance directives, and powers ofattorney, but there comes a time when itis too late. It is also vital that you and yourloved one think through what to do if youshould be incapacitated, or, worse, die first. It can happen.
Develop a care team to help out during emergencies, or over time if your situation is very difficult. In an ideal world there will be lots of people who want to help. More likely you’ll be able to find one or two people to call on in an emergency or to help with small chores. The critical thing is to be willing to tell others what you need and to accept their help.
Establish a family regimen. When things are difficult to begin with, keeping a straightforward daily routine can be a stabilizer, especially for people who find change upsetting and confusing.
Approach some of your hardest caregiving duties like a professional. It’s extraordinarily difficult to separate your family role from yourcaregiving role, to lock your emotions up in abox while you focus on practical chores anddecisions. But it is not impossible to gain somedistance some of the time. It requires an almostsingle-minded approach to getting the job athand done as efficiently and effectively as possible. It takes practice, but is definitely worththe effort.