So what does an owl say? If you look at this little guy, he looks a bit surprised, perhaps caught off guard. Many caregivers do the same when asked WHO they have supporting them.
Who is your go-to person for help and support in a crisis? If you have a crisis plan, then you’re prepared and worry about uncertainties will not weigh down our outlook. But it’s not about a plan of action for a specific crisis. Really, you wouldn't exactly call it a crisis if you'd prepared for it now would you. Being prepared is about having people around you who can be counted on to help. Note I say people, not person. Building your care TEAM is an essential part of effective caregiving, not just for the person needing care, but for the sanity of the primary caregiver.
Primary Caregivers (PC’s) take on many duties they never think about. Usually, far more than they should to maintain a healthy life balance, but that topic will be covered later. If you or a loved one are a PC, then take time to sit down and write down all the tasks accomplished in a day or two. Be detailed.
Then ask the tough question: What if I/she/he can’t do them.
(For the rest of this thought, let’s assume you’re the PC)
Can’t? What can’t I do? If c-a-n-t seems like a four-letter-word that does not exist in your vocabulary, read this carefully. We know you - those caregivers who refuse to acknowledge their human bodies that get sick or for various reasons become unable to be in charge of absolutely everything. You’re overstressed and running on empty already. How do I know? I was one of them. The majority of take-charge caregivers get that way because they have had to at one point or another - as a survival skill. Perhaps it was an emergency situation where no one else could or did step up to pull things together and now everyone looks to you for the answers.
Breaking down the daily tasks of your caregiving role will help a you realize how much you are doing, and shed light on certain tasks that can be handed over to others and when a hand off might be the winning play of the game.
- Could laundry duty be handled by someone else? Maybe Mom or Dad is in assisted living but you insist on taking the laundry home to do rather than use the laundry service offered? If the service really won’t work, who else could do that laundry? That person just might be the one to go grab clothes to bring to the hospital for Mom so you don’t have to leave her side to do it. Or, the cousin who takes over laundry duty might not spend the night in the emergency room, but by having her involved more, you feel better about calling her to take your kids to school when you’ve had to.
- Tax time is looming and the statements are coming in. Do you handle all the mail? Could the bill paying and sorting through tax documents be passed on to someone else who is great with numbers? They might find valuable deductions or see estate planning issues you’re too tired to look for.
- Transportation - do you have to handle it all? Go through the list of physicians or regular shopping and see if any are the kind someone else can manage. Perhaps it’s the annual trip for teeth cleaning or a few grocery runs. Having someone else who knows how to get Mom or Dad in and out of a car easily will help ease your mind if they have to be asked to manage other trips because you have to schedule an appointment for yourself on grocery day or if you need to stay home with a sick child.
Be aware that you may be holding on too tightly to the enormous task list you face each day. Sometimes it’s out of fear of the failure and sometimes a fear of success - someone else's. It can be hard to hear that someone else can do what you’ve been doing out of love. Remember you’re still an MVP (most valuable player) who keeps it all together. But letting others run a few passes in the game now and then will let you be stronger when you have to take on the next big play.
Take time to build your WHO list - this week!