If I can let caregivers know any single thing, it would be that they cannot care for
an aging parent or other caree alone. Having a team of family, friends and
professionals is critical for attaining success and avoiding conflicts.
You could be tempted, especially in the early stages of caregiving to say, “I’m
good. I don’t need a team. I like simplicity and my caree’s health issues are
private.” You are good. But a team will make you better.
Accepting the role as your caree’s Team General Manager is a critical step
toward success. Except success in caregiving isn’t about winning a title, World
Series ring or new car. It’s about making the lives of your caree and yourself the
best they can be within the limits of your abilities and circumstances at every
given moment going forward.
I go in-depth about this matter on the Workshops page of my website,
www.TheLongestDance.com where you’ll also find worksheets to assist you in
assembling your team. I encourage you to stop by and grab them. In the
meantime, let’s fill out our lineup card to see who we want on 1 st , 2 nd, and 3 rd .
Be aware in creating your team’s roster that each person, each team member,
has strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on their strengths allows you to put
them in the best position to assist you in reaching your goal of success. Not
being aware of their weaknesses and trying to put them in a position they just
can’t do is a strategy for stress.
The positions each member will fill are based on the member’s strengths.
Fielding your team is going to leave you best able to catch whatever gets hit your
And, relying on others will simplify future stress in many ways. If you are
responsible for all the balls that will be coming your way, your hands will be too
full to follow the advice of Maya Angelou when she said, “I’ve learned that you
shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able
to throw something back.”
Having others on your team will allow you to throw some things to others who are
skilled in handling what you will be giving them. After all, you only have two
hands – how much can you expect to catch anyway?
Let’s go over who you’ll want on your team.
Find someone who specialized in elder law. Having a Will, Advanced Directive,
DNR, Living Trust and Durable Power of Attorney for both health and finances
drawn up early will enable you to receive treatment and care without the
roadblocks of HIPPA laws and ensure the wishes of your caree are understood
and acted upon.
Emotional stress is often compounded by financial worries. Considerations need
to be made as to how and how long care will be provided and how your own job
and finances will be affected by your new role as a caregiver. If Medicaid is on
the horizon for your caree, there is a five-year look back and many detailed rules
These two professionals will play a lesser role in the day-to- day support of your
caree, but none-the- less, I urge you to get these two players on the team during
the calm times in order to move forward from a place of strength and security.
Primary Care Physician
This is ideally someone your caree feels comfortable with and has expertise in
their condition, is reachable in an emergency and willing to take charge of your
caree’s care coordination.
Family / Siblings
Family members are your long-term team members and (sometimes sadly)
unable to be traded out to another team. While each of you will have a different
relationship to the caree, view caregiving from different lenses, and have various
levels of involvement, family is critical to your role as the caregiving team
manager. Determine the best methods of communication and frequency.
Establish roles and responsibilities.
Free Friend / Paid Therapist / Certified Caregiving Consultant
Anyone you can lean on for a laugh, a new perspective, a casserole – keep their
number on speed dial. Caregiving has the potential to shrink your world and
maintaining friendships helps to keep that world expanded.
Having an objective therapist or life coach who can help you maintain balance
and reassurance can be critical to maintaining your confidence in your new and
ever-changing new life role.
And yes, depending on your caree’s level of cognition, friends and/or a therapist
are just as useful for them!
Talk about people who will get where you are coming from! Finding the right
support group is like finding your “people” or your “tribe”. Next to attorneys and
financial planners, this key member of a team is often pushed to the wayside until
a crisis appears. Don’t fall into this pattern. For all the ways that caregiving can
remove people and activities from your life, it can also add people and activities
to your daily routine in ways that are extremely enriching. Support groups are a
way to share resources, gain confidence in abilities, and vent frustrations without
judgment. A good support group can feel like your own private little army of
strength. Google for one and go!
Home Health Aides / Assisted Livings / Nursing Homes / Hospice
In case it hasn’t yet been made clear, caregiving is not a one-person job. But it is
the job of many individuals and businesses that are specifically trained to care for
your caree and their illness. Start exploring options in your community and
become familiar with what they offer. The time may come when any or all of
these services will need to be utilized by your caree. By knowing what is
available now, when the moment comes to make a change in care level, you will
have already done the legwork and will be able to make an un-panicked, un-
pressure filled decision. Similar to finding your support group BEFORE you
actually need one, your options will be that much clearer to access.
Fortify your bullpen with respite care. The only thing you can depend on in
caregiving is that everything changes. Have back-up plans for your back-up
plans. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Have relievers ready, no one
is superhuman. Plan into your day, week, month and year everything from little 5-
minute breathers to mini-getaways that will refresh, recharge and allow you to
resume your caregiving duties. Think of respite as a means to refresh, recharge
And please remember, just because you are in charge of your caree’s care team
does not mean that you are exempt from keeping yourself in the same great
shape as your teammates. In fact, it is because you are in charge of managing
this team that you need to keep your health and stamina at its peak. If you can’t
run wind sprints in the outfield with your team, they can’t run them by
themselves. Do not end up on the disabled list. That spot is reserved for your
caree and caree only. If a game goes into extra innings, you want to be able to
perform at your best and coach your team from a mindset of sanity. Utilizing your
team to assist you will guarantee you meet your caregiving goal. Take care of
Lastly, the one and only rule of this caregiving season:
With your family and friends, you can ask for do overs with one another. 3
strikes and you’re out does not apply in the caregiving league. Your caree has
never been in the position they’re in and neither have any of you. This is
everyone’s first time up at bat.
Strikeouts will happen. Cut everyone some slack, especially yourself.
Caregiving, like baseball, cannot be played alone.
So, go grab your team and bring the best care experience to your caree during
their final season.