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Advice for The Two Kinds of Caregivers

intergenerational caregiversAs geriatric care managers, we provide advice, counsel, advocacy and support for older care receivers or other people with special needs of any age.  Care managers, however, also provide support to the front line caregivers to these care receivers by adding our CMs eyes and ears when the caregiver cannot be present, our advice based on the experience we have that first time caregivers just cannot have and support for the caregivers themselves. 

            This last is important, because the person most often neglected by the caregiver is they, themselves.  They do not sufficiently care for themselves while they are involved in caregiving.  That said, there are different kinds of caregivers, and the care they need will be different.  We can make a lot of distinctions about kinds of caregivers, but one important dimension that I see a lot very simply is defined by the relationship to the care receiver.  By that I mean, the difference between intra-generational caregiving and intergenerational caregiving.  Let me explain.

            Intra-generational Caregiving.  According to all the surveys I have seen, one of the most common caregiver relationships is that of one spouse caring for the other.  But it also can be siblings who care for one another as one falls ill, or it can be friends, cousins, neighbors and more.  These intra-generational caregivers could benefit from the greater knowledge of community resources that GCMs have, the correct questions GCMs can ask at a medical appointment, the help GCMs can bring to the caregiving to avoid harm to the caregivers.  This last is especially true when both the caregiver and the care receiver are older and frail.  I have seen cases in which the caregiver is injured in a fall while trying to attend to their fallen care receiver.  Yet, such accidents can be avoided if a care manager is brought in to “leverage” the good intentions of a caregiver.  But a caregiver may feel guilty about asking for help when they perceive they should be taking care of everything.  The family needs to talk about helping the caregiver.

            Intergenerational Caregiving. The other common caregiving relationship is the son or daughter (most often the daughter) who is trying to be the caregiver for mom or dad.  This same daughter or son, however, are also responsible for a spouse, or their own children or a job.  These are the truly stressed caregivers who would benefit from a trained care manager to attend the medical appointments and to ask the right questions that will get the best care for mom or dad.  They also would benefit from a very subtle form of counsel on just how to establish the new ground rules for caregiving.  I hear some caregivers say something to the effect that the roles have been reversed, and now mom (or dad) is the child and they are the parent.  Wrong!  The roles have changed, but they have not reversed.  When a child to an older parent steps up to the caregiving role, there need to be some difficult conversations about everyone’s expectations and about the older loved one’s dignity.  A third party like a GCM can be an invaluable arbitrator, not to mention a great resource about all the options in the community that can make caregiving much less stressful and much more rewarding.

            As I have said in other postings, just as it may take a village to raise a child, it also takes that same village to care for all our older loved ones!

            Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to info@cr


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