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Knowing Each Other’s Reality Is Key to Caregiver and Family Support

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

  1. Caregiving parents are reluctant to ask for help for more reasons than I can possibly write about but most of which I (and eventually they themselves) can probably blow holes through.

  2. Adult children can’t possibly know at this point in their lives how everything takes their aging parents two to three to four times longer and requires far more energy than it ever did when they were their adult children’s ages.

  3. Caregiving parents may be threatened by loss of control and power if they let others in to help.

  4. Adult children may be afraid that they will own the whole picture if they step in to help.

Shaping caregiving support Designing a caregiving plan may seem like one more time consuming thing to do, but it is actually one of the most advantageous. This exercise can educate, support, and enhance the lives of everyone involved in the plan. Quite simply, caregivers take a sheet of paper and make three columns across the top labeled:

  1. What I need to do for myself

  2. What I need to do for my loved one for whom I’m caring

  3. What I need to do for our household

Caregivers:  write everything down under each heading that you yourself need to do over the regular course of a day, a week and a month of caregiving. As you write, think of every aspect of life: e.g. re-ordering and picking up prescriptions; changing the oil in the car; mowing the lawn; doing the food shopping; showering your loved one; doing your laundry; going to your own doctor appointments, etc., etc. When your lists are complete, go back and circle in each column what you can give to someone else to do for you. Don’t think of who can do it, just think do YOU have to do it. Next, copy all the circled items on a separate piece of paper. Distribute that sheet to adult children, family, friends, whomever is offering to be on your caregiving team and part of the plan. Let them review the list and sign their name next to whatever they choose to do. This is also a great list to post near your phone or keep in your pocket so when people ask, what can I do for you, you can pull it out and see what tasks they’d like to choose. Adult children: take a look at all the lists. It’s a good way to see into your parents’ reality. Review the list of tasks to give away and see if there is something there that you can choose.  The nice thing about choosing is you can match your own availability, skills, and comfort levels to specific areas. No judgements; no assignments; just what you choose. This process is not only helpful for the day to day responsibilities the caregiver needs to share, but also for major changes that must be made as time evolves. Like selling the family home and downsizing.  Before becoming overwhelmed by all that involves, write it down as tasks instead. Rather than taking the whole responsibility on, can others help with some of those tasks? Circle and list them out on that sheet for things that can be taken on by others. Caregivers: whatever you give away as tasks to be done by others, let them do those tasks their way. We can’t control everything and it is in trying to so that we become overwhelmed and defeated and turn off those who would offer. Let others help at their speed, comfort level, and knowledge set. We can teach each other a lot this way and all be better caregivers in the process. ~ Joan F. Wright, CDP, CADDCT

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