Forming Your CaregivingTeam

The lie about caregiving is that you have to go it alone. It's a powerful lie because it seems like you must go it alone because it looks like you're the only one who does.

The truth is that caregiving is too big and too demanding for one person. You deserve a team to help. And, if you think about it, you already have some team members; you just haven't seen them as such. For instance, on a bad day, maybe your dog, Trixie, provides the love and healing you need. Well, guess what, Trixie is on your team. And, maybe, your trips to the drugstore are helpful because of that nice pharmacist, Bruce, who always has a smile and a helpful tip to share. Yep, Bruce has made the team.

The first step to forming your team is to determine why you need a team. So, write your answers to this question: Why do I need a team?

Your answers may be:

  • For support
  • For answers
  • For breaks
  • For laughs
  • For reassurance
  • For errand-running
  • For bill-paying
  • For hands-on care

And on and on. Next, answer this question: What responsibilities do I want to delegate to my team?

Your answers may be:

  • Provide a three-hour break twice a week.
  • Provide a one-week break every year.
  • Research community options for me.
  • Lend an objective ear.
  • Keep me realistic in my role.

Once you understand the purpose and role of your team, you're ready to build it. Again, you may already have some members, some you may have to recruit. Some family members and friends will run when you appear clipboard in hand, ready to recruit. That's okay they are not the team members you need.

Next, answer: Who do I want on my team?

Your answers may be:

  • The caregiver specialist at the Area Agency on Aging
  • The home health aide
  • The librarian
  • My best friend
  • My support group
  • My neighbor
  • My local assisted living facility
  • My brother

Here's an example of how we can put it all together:

I'm a full-time caregiver to my mom. I manage well except on Saturday afternoons when I feel cooped up. I find that I hate staying home with my mom on Saturday afternoons. I also want help with cooking because my cooking is awful. I wish I could find more time to read a book each week. I also have lots of anger about my situation and want someone to vent to.

With this in mind, I decide I want a team to help me get out a few Saturdays each month, relieve me of some of cooking responsibilities, free up some time for me to read more and provide an objective ear.

I decide that my team can include a home health aide to stay with my mom, a family member to prepare frozen meals that I can microwave, the librarian to update me when a good book arrives and a support group member to be my venting buddy.
I'm ready to start recruiting!

--Home health aide
I call local agencies to find an agency that can best meet my needs. I interview home health aides and work with the agency to find the right professional caregiver for myself and my caree. And, what the heck, I ask my brother to foot the bill. I call him and say, "I'd love your help with Mom. I'd like to take three hours off two Saturdays a month. I found a great aide to stay with Mom while I'm gone. Can you help out with the expense--it would mean so much to me."

--Frozen meals
I send my family members and friends an update e-mail. I let them know how much it means to be able to take care of our caree and how grateful I am for their support. I am running into one problem, though, I write. I'm a terrible cook! I'd love some help. Would you be able to help with a few frozen meals each week that I can microwave?

I call my local library and explain my situation to the librarian. I miss reading great books, I explain, but my time constraints make getting to the library difficult. In addition, I'm completely out of ideas as to which books are worth reading. Can you help?

--Venting Buddy
I ask a member of my support group if he or she would be interested in being venting partners. We'll call each other every week, I suggest. I vent for 10 minutes while my support group friend merely listens. Then, it's his turn.

As with all things, the recruiting process may have starts-and-stops--that is okay. Keep asking until you find the right solution.

And, for those team members you didn't have to recruit (like Trixie and Bruce) be sure to include them in your regular thanks to the team. Your gratitude and appreciation keeps your team full.