Family Caregivers shoulder a lot of responsibility when they accept their role in caring for an aging loved one or spouse. In addition to the responsibilities they already have, they must now also handle the needs and wants of another person, and sometimes handle the other’s obligations as well. We make God laugh when we try to tightly control our lives because He is always in control and He already has a plan laid out for us. Surprises come out of left field that leave us staggering back, wondering how we can manage this along with everything else. Because your life is complicated and unpredictable, having a back-up plan is critical to managing all you do as a family caregiver.
The great news is that none of us are in this alone! The better you get at building a support team around you, the more secure you will feel when you need to activate your Plan B. No matter how skilled, how flexible, how healthy and well balanced you might be, there will be times when you have to trust someone else to step in and give you a hand when you can’t be there. When this need arises, you don’t want to be scrambling and trying to figure out what to do at the last minute. Rather, you want to have your resources in place so the transition to the new plan can be as painless as possible for you and those you care for.
Knowing where to turn to find the help you need is the first and most important step to help you win at caregiving. For this, you need to fully understand and be able to communicate your responsibilities to someone who can help you put a plan in place. You might have this conversation with other family members, your pastor, a parish nurse, someone in the medical community, or a professional provider in the senior care industry. You could also talk with a friend who has been down this road before and ask where they found their best resources. Keep in mind that having these strategic conversations doesn’t mean you are weak or incapable of fulfilling your caregiving commitments. If anything, it means you are looking ahead and taking full advantage of every opportunity to make certain your loved one has the care they need, even if you can’t be there.
From here, you will want to explore the avenues that have been suggested to you and choose the best path to follow. Begin to schedule time to have additional conversations within your chosen direction. Ask questions, describe in detail what would be needed, and listen to your heart even as you listen to the answers being given. Don’t be afraid to be graphic or to challenge statements that seem less than committed to the task at hand. A family member who suggests they might be able to help out probably won’t when the crisis is at hand. You must feel your way through this part, but don’t let that frighten you. Remember, God is STILL in control, even through your planning process. Let Him direct your path and bring forward the best solution to meet your needs.
Once you have your Plan B in place, you will want to periodically revisit it, just so things don’t get out of phase. Touch base with the people or professionals who have committed to being your back-up plan. Revisit and update the care needs of your loved one. Maybe even involve them periodically in a respite-care situation so you can take a break and they can build a relationship with your loved one. Then if you have to be away unexpectedly there is already familiarity with the situation.
When you work through this process all the way to the end, you’ve positioned yourself and your loved one in the best possible situation. You’re doing a great job as a family caregiver, and if you need help in a pinch, you’ve got that covered as well!
Betsy and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about finding reliable helpers.