How to Be Planful About Caregiving

If you are a caregiver, or thinking about becoming one, consider some of these care giving traps so you can be mindful of falling into them:

  1. Being the sole provider. I mentioned the pitfalls of this in Part I. It’s easy to understand why a care giver becomes the sole provider: the person being cared for may rebel against or refuse help from outsiders; outside help may be expensive; the caregiver may feel it’s expected–that it would show a lack of love or commitment to his/her partner if he/she didn’t do it or that he/she would be judged by others; or it may start out of necessity, i.e. this is the help that’s needed so you do it.??There are many benefits to making care giving a shared responsibility: first, the primary caregiver can maintain their other role in the relationship as mother, father, partner, spouse, sister, brother… which often gets lost. Second, it helps the caregiver to maintain her/his health and some perspective so she/he can provide the best care possible for as long as possible. Third, it allows the person being cared for some variety–if they’re fairly housebound this is usually important. Fourth, if something does happen to the caregiver that prevents her/him from continuing there is someone who can step in with little upheaval. Fifth, if the level of care needed increases an outsider may recognize this more than the primary caregiver and bring this to his/her attention. 
  2. Isolation. This ties in with #1 When there is one care provider, both the provider and the person being cared for can become isolated. Also, when that’s the only relationship they have, other roles get lost and the caregiver can end up feeling like a nurse. Isolation also makes it difficult for either the caregiver or person being cared for to maintain perspective about the relationship. Among other things isolation can also cause resentment, frustration, depression and abuse. 
  3. Knowing what the other options are. It may be a good idea initially to explore–with the person needing care–what the various options are, whether you access them or not. Other options include assisted living facilities, adult family homes, in-home care, skilled nursing facilities, and public services through Aging and Disability Services in your county, as well as organizations specific to the type of disability or specific to caregivers and care giving. 
  4. Being purposeful. The best way to do this is for the caregiver and person being cared for to sit down together and decide such things as what each wants, expects and wants to avoid. It would be ideal if the two can decide under what conditions each would want the arrangement to change. For instance, if the caregiver has to start helping the person being cared for shower or dress the person being cared for might prefer a “stranger” to do these more intimate things. Or, if the caregiver feels that providing care is having a negative impact on the relationship with the person needing care.

In addition to the initial meeting, having regular weekly or monthly check-ins with the person receiving care can help keep things on track. There are four areas to discuss at these meetings: 1) what worked over the last week/month; 2) what didn’t work over the same time period; 3) what each of you would have liked to have been different and; 4) if either person is holding any bad feelings toward the other that they’d like to bring up.

I know these aren’t easy conversations to have however if both parties can be open to giving and receiving useful feedback it can make the experience better for both and even enhance the relationship.

Would you like to talk about your specific situation?

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