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Teamwork in Caregiving

Most people want to live in their own homes as they become older. This becomes difficult as age and infirmities slow individuals down. Adding to this, grown children may not live nearby. The best way to help your parents is to plan ahead and assemble a team.

Even if your parents are still relatively healthy, there may be situations in which they need help. No one son or daughter should be expected to do it alone - nieces, nephews and friends can all come together and contribute.

Like any team, yours needs a captain, or leader. Out of town family members may not be able to do the “hands-on” tasks, but can help with the coordination of the care team. The first step for the captain is to make a list. Write down all the tasks that need to be done--now and in the future--and place them into categories.

Next, build the team. People need to recognize and use their strengths. If someone in the group has experience with financial and legal matters, he or she could help with wills, bank accounts and bill paying. One person may want to be in charge of the doctor appointments, medications, and medical needs.

There will be a need to monitor the parents’ activities of daily living. If your parent is healthy, this may just making sure that someone stops by their home weekly to check on their safety. Household chores become more of a burden as a person ages. How about asking a grandchild to come by monthly to wash the floors? Perhaps a neighborhood teen can mow the lawn or be on hand to move a heavy piece of furniture. Have a list of tasks ready so when someone does offer help, you’ll have some tasks ready.

Include one or two particular people, whom your parents trust implicitly, to ask for help with addressing sensitive topics that may arise. Think of a close friend or clergy member that your parent respects; this person may be the one to talk to your parents about their driving ability or about accepting a home health aide.

You may have to look outside of your core team for transportation. If your parents belong to a church, check to see if the church community has a list of volunteers to drive people to doctor appointments or help with errands. Many local towns, even rural counties, have transit systems for older and disabled adults. Do some research and include this information into your plan.

Your team might not be able to come together to meet in person, but it’s still important that you communicate and all share information. Set a reminder to send out a monthly email or newsletter to ask everyone to respond with their care report.

Do not feel guilty that you cannot handle everything. Using a team approach to caregiving will make everyone happier and ultimately provide better care for your loved one.

Resource: Caregiver Action Network