It Takes a Village to Care for a Patient-How to Recruit Caregiver Help
As an air ambulance provider, MedFlight911 provides care and assistance during just one part of the patient’s care. Many of the patients who use our worldwide air ambulance service are travelling to receive institutional care. However, once this inpatient care is complete and they return home, the need for caregiving does not decrease. In fact, it often increases.
According to the National Family Caregivers Association, 65 million Americans each year provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend. The average caregiver spends 20 hours per week providing care. Yet caregiving is a difficult role – often causing exhaustion, depression, and burnout. We previously discussed caregiver depression and caregiver stress. Today, as the first in a two-part series, we’ll explore how to make caregiving a bit easier.
There is a widespread anecdote describing a frog being boiled that is often applied to the role of a caregiver. The premise is that if a frog is placed into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. However, if placed in cold water that is slowly heated, that same frog will not perceive the danger and boil to death. This graphic example serves as a metaphor for caregivers who fail to recognize and react to significant changes that occur gradually.
Hillary Rodham Clinton famously said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Indeed, it can take a village to provide care to people of any age. But, how do you find that village? Today, we will spotlight using the free resources in your community to build your village
The most common complaint I hear from caregivers is that their friends and family offer to help, but never follow through. On the other side of the equation, I hear friends and family say they want to help, but do not know how. So, how do you turn offers into actual help?
Recognize that asking for help is a sign of strength. Realize that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. In reality, it means that you have a grasp on your situation and are being proactive to make things easier and better for everyone involved.
Realize how much you are doing. Recognize that caregiving, like any job, is made of individual tasks, not all of which are of the same importance. Some tasks take a few minutes, some may take hours. Some tasks are easy and some require training and skill.
Make a list and check it twice. Create a detailed list of everyone who has offered to help, itemizing their strengths, weaknesses, and schedule. For example, Martha may be an excellent cook while James never uses his kitchen. However, James loves to golf and would be willing to take your husband to the driving range and give you some valuable time alone. Or consider that Julie is already picking up her daughter at school at the same time your son is dismissed. Use this list to determine what tasks you would like to delegate and to whom.
Write down your worries. Are you concerned about money? Or what will happen if you get ill? Are you concerned about who is capable of giving of medication? Seeing your concerns in black and white diffuses the emotions surrounding them. It allows you to approach your concerns more rationally and understand how getting help may lessen your stress. It will also help you determine what you might ask a family member or a friend to help with as opposed to paying for the help or finding assistance through a public program.
Make specific requests. Once you have determined who can help with transportation as opposed to whose casserole you would most enjoy, ask them for help. Be specific. Ask Julie, “Can you pick up my son every Monday after school and watch him for 30 minutes until I am home from physical therapy?” Ask Martha if she would be able to make a weekly casserole for you when she is making her meals for the week. Some caregivers have created an online calendar accessible to family and friends that lists appointments and times that need coverage. Volunteers can chose the 60 to 90 minutes that work best for the each month and schedule themselves.
If you are unable to find friends or family who can help, check with your local church, temple, or senior center. Many have nurses or social workers on staff who can find or know of volunteers ready and willing to help.
Stay tuned for the second part of this series, where we’ll focus on what to look for in a paid caregiver and how to find a good one.