Whenever I meet someone new who has a family member with Alzheimer’s, the first thing I tell them is to assemble a caregiving team. Well, actually, I talk to them first, and ask questions, but it’s all in search of information.
Most of us take on caregiving out of love and, yes, responsibility. They are our family. Who else is going to care for them as well as we will? To be quite frank, most families can’t afford a lot of paid help so it falls on us.
Even if you can afford some paid help it’s still important to assemble a care team. What exactly is a care team? Good question. Your care team will likely look different than my care team or the people helping someone else.
First, the most important thing, in my opinion, is to find a local support group. I learned more in my support group in the first few months than I knew from the past decade. To be frank, I didn’t even know there was an Alzheimer’s Association until I Googled looking for a support group. You can go ti their site ay www.alz.org and find a group near you.
Why a Caregiving Team?
Caregiving, even for someone in the early stages can be isolating. You need to be with people who have been where you are and are still on the journey. The knowledge you’ll gain from a good support group is invaluable. I still attend mine even though my Mom is gone.
However, finding a support group is barely the first step. Your next step should be to evaluate all the tasks needed to maintain you and your home and see what should be outsourced.
When caring for someone in the early stages hiring someone to handle the yard work or clean the house might make the most sense. It’s more than likely that your loved one won’t need much hands-on care. Hiring someone to take over some of your chores and some of theirs will take the pressure off and allow you to enjoy your days together more peacefully.
Once you’ve evaluated what chores can be outsourced, you should start planning for the future. Caregiving can be compared to standing on quicksand. At first, you can get out of the sand, but slowly, almost without notice, you’re in over your head.
Caregiving Slowly Takes Over
I helped take care of my Mom for 20 years. In the beginning, it wasn’t hard. However, like most people, we were unaware of what would come. I truly believe that my Dad eventually gave up. Between caring for Mom and his chronic illnesses he just didn't have the energy. It’s easy to believe when you learn that 65% of caregivers are hospitalized or die before the person they care for.
This is why it’s important to find and cultivate people who care to support you and give you help when you need it. The sooner you do this the easier it will be for all involved. As your loved one declines, they’ll be there to see the changes. This should allow them to adapt their help better but additionally, they’ll be able to understand the disease easier.
Some of the best advice I learned was to ask other family members what they’d be comfortable handling. This allows them to be involved in a way that fits into their schedule. It’s also a way for out of town people to help without giving up time off or traveling.
How Do I Get Others to Help?
For example, I am horrible when it comes to dealing with bureaucracies. When it comes to banks and insurance companies, my tolerance is about two minutes long. This is likely why I am a solo entrepreneur. I just don’t play well with others.
My husband, on the other hand, worked in banking so he speaks their language. He’s also been in real estate long enough to have worked through the crash of 2007-2008. Trying to short-sell properties, deal with bank-owned homes tested even his patience. He’s the perfect person to handle bureaucratic chores.
Similarly, you may be an adult child trying to help one parent care for the other. If you have kids and a job, you don’t have a lot of time. You might be able to work with the kids to meal prep for your parents.
My sister did this with a friend of hers. They’d get together once or twice a month, on a weekend afternoon and prep slow cooker meals that they would freeze. These frozen meals allowed Dad to dump and run, giving him more time to handle other things. She and her friend would share the prepped meals so everyone had some variety. The wine and companionship didn’t hurt either!
I’d go as far as suggesting that an older grandchild could handle meal prep for both families which is a good life skill to learn.
Spouse VS Adult Child Caregiving
In reality, not all caregivers are a spouse of the person needing care. Being an adult child caregiver means you’ve got more to juggle. This is where expanding your team to friends, neighbors, and community members might be necessary.
For example, getting my Mom to the doctor in the last couple of years of her life was quite a challenge. It wouldn’t have been quite such an issue if a simple visit didn’t require 2-4 hours of my time. For better or worse, since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, there are more options available for medical care.
I’d strongly suggest setting up telemedicine as early as possible. Eliminating the need to get in the car and be at a specific place at a certain time has to be the best reason to use this service. It also protects both of you from other diseases.
For those appointments that require them to be seen in person, maybe a friend has better success getting them there. With the promise of a nice lunch once the appointment is over you might find the outing to be enjoyable. It also gives the caregiver a break or time to handle their own families.
Think Creatively & Specifically
By thinking creatively and putting a care team in place early on, it may be possible to avoid paid care. A well-crafted team that shifts when the disease shifts can be a blessing to everyone involved.
Don’t wait until there’s a big change in their abilities or a crisis to start asking for help. Alzheimer’s can be a long marathon and you’ll need a team the entire way.
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