Every family caregiver needs to have a backup plan in place for those times when they can’t be there. What’s yours? Have you given it any thought? Very few people have simple, predictable lives; for most of us life is messy and complicated, without the added complexities of becoming a family caregiver.
Family Caregivers shoulder a lot of additional 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.
Sometimes you will have the luxury of planning to be away from your caregiving responsibilities, for events like attending your child’s graduation or taking that vacation we discussed last week. Other necessary absences are unexpected, like an illness or necessary surgery. Whatever the circumstance, having a backup plan that you can activate long-range or quickly is essential to being a responsible and prepared family caregiver.
The great news is that none of us are alone in this! The better you get at building a support team around you, the more confident you will feel when you need to activate your back-up plan. 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 situation arises, you don’t want to be scrambling and trying to figure out what to do at the last minute. It is much better to have your resources already in place so the transition to the alternate plan can be as seamless 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 want 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. It actually demonstrates that 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.
Next, you will want to explore the avenues that have been suggested to you and choose the best path forward for your specific circumstances. Plan now for time to dig deeper 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 brutally honest 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 you out probably won’t be available when a crisis arises. You must feel your way carefully through this part, but don’t let the process 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 back-up plan in place, you will want to periodically revisit it, just so things don’t get out of phase. Touch base with the people or company who have committed to be your Plan B. 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 when 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!
Chris and I hope you’ll join the conversation this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about having a backup plan for caregiving.