February 4, 2019

There’s strength in numbers – especially when it comes to providing care and support to an aging family member. What can you do to create a care support network for your senior family?

We’ve got a few ideas to help you build the team of professionals, family, and friends that can help give aging adults the support they need, while also giving family caregivers a much-needed chance to rest and recharge.

So, how can you get started building a care network for your senior loved one? Read on…

You Don’t Have to Take on Caregiving Alone

America’s population is only getting older. As a result, many millions of adults have found themselves having to act as caregiver on behalf of an older adult – oftentimes, while still also providing care for children of their own.

According to a report from the AARP and the National Alliance for caregiving, about 34 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older every year. A large majority of these caregivers (82%) care for one other adult, while about 15% care for two people at once. Among this group, about 15 million family caregivers care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Many millions of caregivers are also in a position where they need to look after a loved one long-distance, making things even more difficult. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are about 5-7 million long-distance caregivers. On average, long-distance caregivers tend to live about 450 miles away from their loved one – that’s 7.23 hours of travel time, one-way.

The bottom line? Being a family caregiver is a lot to take on alone. When faced with the daunting responsibility of providing care for an aging loved one, many people find that it helps to delegate whenever they can. Having an extra set of hands to help your senior family, or an extra set of eyes and ears to keep you apprised of any big changes or incidents, could make all the difference for your loved one’s health, happiness, and independence.

Building a Care Network: Who Should Be Involved?

The British poet John Donne once famously wrote these lines:

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

That’s a beautiful piece of verse – and it rings true when it comes to caregiving, in so many ways. Often enough, in caregiving, people tend to isolate themselves to their personal “islands.”

For instance? Older adults, fearing becoming a burden or losing their independence, try to hide their mishaps or minimize their needs. Family caregivers put all of their focus and attention on their loved ones, and ignore their own health and wellbeing. Care providers all take on different responsibilities, but never communicate or coordinate between one another.

But what if everyone, as Donne suggested, thought of themselves as a unified whole? Everyone has a part to play – and the whole symphony sounds better when everyone is playing in harmony.

To that end, if possible, it may help to approach caregiving as a team sport. Remember that you don’t have to go it alone, and that many different people can – and should – contribute to your loved one’s personalized care plan.

As a caregiver, there are many different people, organizations, and resources you can leverage to help take better care of your aging loved one, while giving yourself the time and support you need. Here are a few common people and groups to keep in mind:

Medical Professionals

Your loved one’s doctors, including therapists and specialists, will be a remarkable resource as you care for your aging parent or loved one. It’s important to set up clear lines of communication between the primary family caregiver and any doctor or medical professional who cares for the senior. In addition to providing information on the medications and wellness regimen that the senior should follow, a medical professional can be a go-to person when you have any questions or face any challenges in caring for your aging loved one.

Friends and Family

If possible, try to engage any local family or friends who may be able to help out your aging loved one. Having people in the community can be absolutely invaluable – particularly for long distance caregivers. In some cases, local family members may be able to swing by and look after your loved one when you need time off. In other cases, just being able to have the senior’s family or friends pay social calls can work wonders for their health and happiness. Remember, if you need someone to talk to as a family caregiver, it always helps to be able to broach important subjects with family members who know your loved one, and understand what you’re going through.

Religious Organizations

Many churches, synagogues, and temples offer important support for caregivers and aging adults. For one thing, many older adults turn to their religious groups as a place for community building and friendship. Belonging to a religious organization often provides structure and emotional support for older adults. At the same time, many local churches and temples act as community centers, and offer access to resources, ranging from transportation services, to food delivery, to support and discussion groups.

Professional Caregivers or Companions

Everyone needs a little bit of extra support and assistance every now and then. In many cases, one of the best steps you can take is to bring on a professional companion or caregiver for your older adult. Available on part-time and full-time schedules, companions can help your older family member with activities of daily living (ADLs), including moving around, housekeeping, meal prep, and more. At the same time, this caring professional can provide a friendly face and great company to your loved one when they need some social interaction – all while helping them stay in the safety and comfort of home.

Local Services

The world has changed in the last few years. Now, products and services that once seemed distant and hard to find are now just a few clicks away. Look into the local services that may help your older loved one live more comfortably and healthfully, ranging from meal and grocery delivery, to medical “house calls,” to pick-up laundry and dry cleaning service.

Caregiving Support Groups and Resources

Acting as a family caregiver is a supreme act of love – but it can also be exhausting and frustrating. There’s no shame in feeling the stress of acting as a caregiver. In fact, it’s important to be able to process your feelings and experiences in a healthy way, so you don’t suffer from burnout or illness as a result of all your responsibility. One avenue to turn to for help? Your community likely plays host to at least one caregiver support group. These are local meetups for people in your situation, designed to let you share challenges and successes and discuss the ups and downs of acting as a loving caregiver. If you cannot find a support group near you, there are online resources you may wish to explore, including discussion forums and blogs.

Now, it’s vital to coordinate among everyone who will be directly involved in your senior loved one’s care plan, and to set up clear lines of communication between all of the parties who will play a role. For example, you may want to set up a phone tree or messaging chain among family or friends who care for your loved one, to help coordinate schedules and quickly spread important messages.

How Companions for Seniors Can Help

At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.

Our companions are trained, bonded, and insured, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one remain in the comfort of their own home. We’re locally owned in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs.

Are you ready to start seeking the help that you and your loved one truly need? Do you have an aging family member who might benefit from the support of a professional in-home companion or caregiver? Companions for Seniors can help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch today to keep the conversation going.