In my last post, I gave you some tips on distance caregiving that arguably could be called the 30,000 foot perspective on distance caregiving. But even from afar caregiving is deeply personal and the caregiver needs to be as much a focus as the care receiver. You might call this my “do unto yourself as you do unto the other” post. I’ll start with the “other:”
- Caregiving is a team sport – to be successful you have to be part of your care receiver’s team. Most health care providers, especially the residential ones, have what they call a “Care Team.” That could include a nurse, a physical therapist, a social worker, and a physician, and this last could include any number of specialists. You are part of the team, and you do not have to have power of attorney to be a team member…but you do need your care receiver’s written permission for the rest of the team to talk with you.
- Successful teams bond with one another – you need to have a relationship with key members of the Care Team. And everyone needs to own their position on the team. Regular check-ins happen…well…regularly. Everyone keeps notes and lists of “to do” items. You also need to get into that habit.
Now, about you.
- Take care of you – If you know anyone who is a therapist or social worker seeing clients in an office, they do not work all their hours in one-on-one therapy. They take time to process, and they take time to recover. In short, they take care of themselves. The lesson here is that self-care is very important to successful “other-care.” I recall an individual who confided in me that he had gone from six hours of uninterrupted sleep a night caring for his mother to six hours of interrupted sleep a night caring for mom. That is not good self-care.
- Avoid burnout – When you have a call with your care receiver or members of the care team, set a time limit as you begin. Make notes following the calls, and these include assessing how you feel about what you have heard. Have the local care team take care of what happens locally…you cannot.
- Set loving limits – I followed this advice when I was raising my children as well. You have to recharge your batteries. Some people workout, others write in a journal, some people go to the art museum, and some listen to their favorite music. Do what feeds your spirit so that your spirit will be there for both you and your care receiver.
In the end, everyone on the team wins. If you are a caregiver, it’s important to be part of a winning team.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, 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. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.