Caregivers need others to help carry the ball

Down, set, hut! In a game of football, the ball is snapped from a centre to the quarterback. The quarterback will have mere seconds to execute a play – whether running the ball himself, handing it off or passing to a receiver. The quarterback’s success, along with his level of play, will, of course, affect the game’s outcome, but he cannot win completely independently – he will have an entire team who will also contribute.

This “team” concept is of utmost importance as well to caregivers who will encounter many challenges when trying to manage the needs of a senior. Often, caregivers mistakenly believe that they can do everything themselves. Many caregiving resources exist at local, provincial and national levels and are well-able to assist those in need, but you will have to call and ask for their help. From my own co-caregiving experience, here a few ideas of where you can pass the ball:

Family

Your immediate family is certainly the most obvious support. No matter where a brother or sister lives, there are things that can be done – even at a distance. Mind you, there are various types of distance – geographical distance can be dealt with; however, emotional distance or discomfort with the situation are completely different matters. Talk frankly with your relatives; ask who is willing to do what and how much? Siblings living elsewhere and not being directly involved may assume that everything is “just fine” and not completely understand what a primary caregiver is going through. Explain your situation and ask them for help.

Your parent’s friends or neighbours

If your parent(s) has/have relocated, contact their friends and/or neighbours to serve as watchdogs. Exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses, encourage regular communication, and even supply the neighbours an emergency key to your parent’s home – just in case. A visiting neighbour can alert you about both your parent’s health and the state of the home – if housecleaning hasn’t been done in some time, this can be a red flag for you.

Healthcare workers

This lengthy list includes doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, pharmacists and professional caregivers. These individuals have chosen to dedicate their lives to helping others. Their jobs focus on ensuring better health and providing quality of life – by all means, work with them.

A lawyer

Whether Mom / Dad needs to update their will or you have a Guardianship or Trusteeship question, legal counsel can best advise you.

A banker / financial planner

Dealing with financial matters (even the simpler things like the paying of Mom/Dad’s regular bills) can become complicated. A knowledgeable professional can answer your questions about your parent’s savings and investments.

A real estate agent

Seniors don’t always like the idea of moving away from their homes into long-term care, but it often becomes necessary. When the day comes, a real estate agent can help caregivers to list, price, show, and sell a parent’s home.

Your parent’s hairstylist / barber

Does your mother routinely have her hair coloured or does your father still get a bi-weekly buzz cut? A hairstylist or barber (or any staff who regularly expect and work with your parent(s)) can tip you off if they miss a number of appointments in succession. Similarly, members of a community group or church congregation might also notice if your parent does not attend for a couple of consecutive meetings. A letter carrier may be able to advise you if your parent’s mail goes undeliverable for a few days.

Individuals are not the only ones who can effectively play on your own caregiving team. Consider the following groups as well:

The Canadian Caregiver Coalition

Whether you live on one side of this country or the other, you can reach out The Canadian Caregiver Coalition for information, encouragement, and advocacy. National programs, on-line caregiving tools, and many recommended resources are all listed on their website.

The Canadian Homecare Association

The Canadian Homecare Association plays two important roles: they will provide care for aging seniors and allow respite time away for family caregivers.

Canadian Adult Care

If you are tired and frustrated with looking for suitable help, then register for this service and qualified caregivers from across the country can contact you instead! Job-seeking caregivers can provide resumes, state their professional experience, and even provide results of a criminal record check. Browse through this information and make your choice.

Know that these ideas are just the beginning. Try “Google searching” “caregiving help in [your location]” to find many more options. You may be surprised at what – and how much – is available! Identifying and involving these additional players will benefit both you and your loved one. The message here is that, as a caregiver, don’t have others just sit idly on the sidelines. Play quarterback. Huddle up with your team, call the next play, and take the snap from your centre. If your running back or wide receiver is open, give him the caregiving ball to carry by all means. These other players on your caregiving team may well gain much more yardage than you.

About Rick Lauber

Rick Lauber is a former co-caregiver, established freelance writer and author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians (Self-Counsel Press). Rick’s book is available for purchase at national Chapter’s bookstores and online.

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