Unlocking the Power of Your Support System: A Guide for Caregivers. Being a long-time caregiver is an immense challenge, and finding and retaining good help can feel equally daunting. Many of us fail to fully tap into our built-in support systems, which can be a valuable resource. In this article, I will share the advice I give to all new caregivers to help them navigate this demanding role more effectively. Let's dive in!
Step One: List Your Tasks
Begin by making a daily task list for one week, including all the responsibilities you need to manage. Add monthly tasks and recurring appointments, ensuring you also account for your needs. This comprehensive list should encompass everything necessary to run your household and care for your loved ones.
It's important to note here that you should also consider scheduling respite for yourself, allowing time for hobbies or activities that bring you joy. Maintaining a sense of normalcy in your own life is vital for your well-being and caregiving abilities.
Step Two: Identify Your Support Network
Now that you have a thorough list of tasks, it's time to create a list of people you can rely on in your life. These individuals need not be family members or reside in the same city; think broadly about the people who form your support network. Take a few days to reflect on who is likely to be there for the long haul. Once you have your list, consider the strengths and abilities of each person and match them with tasks they would be best suited to assist with.
For instance, if making phone calls to insurance companies or banks is not your forte, identify someone who excels in this area. It could be your spouse, a close friend, or a trusted relative. On the other hand, if someone is skilled at driving, preparing freezer meals, or spending quality time with your loved one, assign those tasks to that person.
"But I Don't Need Help Right Now."
You might be thinking, "But I don't need help right now; I can handle everything." While that may be true at present, it's essential to plan for emergencies and the future. What if you become injured and are unable to fulfill your regular responsibilities? Having a support system already in place will greatly reduce stress during such challenging times.
Dementia, in particular, is a merciless disease. While the progression may be gradual, there are sudden dips that require immediate adjustments in handling household matters. Waiting until your loved one requires more help may only exacerbate the stress. In my experience, my mother initially resisted the idea of assistance, but she accepted caregivers during my father's hospice care. Despite her initial reluctance, she eventually thrived once she settled into memory care.
By involving your friends and family in your caregiving journey from the beginning, you allow them the time to understand the changes in your life and the life of your loved one. Asking for help when it's most difficult might lead to excuses instead of actual assistance. Educating your support system and allowing them to contribute in ways that suit them best will make the entire experience smoother for everyone involved.
Caregiving is undoubtedly challenging, so it's crucial not to make obtaining help harder than it needs to be. Embrace the power of your support system and unlock the potential for smoother caregiving experiences. Remember, you are not alone, and with a strong network by your side, you can face the demands of caregiving with greater ease and confidence.