Written by Wendy Johnstone, Provincial Program Consultant and Gerontologist with Family Caregivers of BC
Caregiving is on a continuum and along the caregiving journey, situations change, transitions happen, care needs of the recipient change and caregiving needs change. While uncertainty is a certainty with caregiving, a caregiver support plan can give you a foundation and strategies to help you navigate the ups and downs and twists and turns. It allows you to think about how best to care and what supports will help. It also allows you to better manage what’s in your control and what is not.
Without it seeming disrespectful or uncaring, caregiving can be seen as a “project”. All well executed projects have a plan. And all projects require support. Knowing what you need as caregiver and strategies for supporting those needs are the foundation of your plan.
The following steps provide one approach to creating a plan for yourself:
- Identify your needs: Check in with yourself regularly by using a self-evaluation, found at familycaregiversbc.ca/wp-content/ uploads/2021/03/FCBC-Understanding- Caregiver-Needs.pdf, where you can identify areas where more support would help and where you are having trouble or want to fill a gap in your caregiving strategies. For Cathy, her needs include having time for herself during the day and an opportunity to take part in a support group.
- Reflect on your current caregiving activities: Identify which of your current activities require your presence and which can be Ask yourself, are there activities that someone else can do? This delegation allows you to share the care and decisions with others. It also helps to create boundaries and balance your limited time, while establishing a circle of care and support around you and your care recipient. For Mike, he needs to better understand medication management but realizes he doesn’t need to help administer it. He wants to delegate this task to community health services.
- Find your carrot: Write down why these needs are important to you. How will it help you with your overall wellbeing and as a caregiver? For Anna, her need is to understand how dialysis works so she can support her sister in being as independent as possible. Her carrot is: 1) she wants to support her sister to feel empowered in decision-making and in managing her disease and 2) knowing what is expected of her in a caregiving role will allow Anna to manage her school schedule so she can still graduate.
- Detail your plan and find support: Keep it simple by writing down your plan. You can use our tool at https://www.familycaregiversbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/FCBC-Caregiver-Plan.pdf or find your own template to use. Finding support can include finding and utilizing resources like friends, family, local organizations, self-management programs, or your family doctor, etc. We suggest you decide on one or two supports that are likely to be the most helpful in meeting your needs. For Mandy, her needs were dealing with feelings of sadness and grief. She spoke to their case manager and to the local hospice organization. She was able to find a counsellor that was a good fit for her needs.
- Prepare for setbacks: They happen. Think about who can help you with your needs. Or think about what might get in the way of filling your needs. How might you get around these things? If possible, create a plan to deal with possible setbacks. For Mike, a possible setback would be his mom not wanting anyone else helping with medications. His plan is to use the case manager, whom his mom really enjoys, to support this conversation with his mom.
- Visualize your success: How will your well-being and caregiving be different with more of your needs met? What type of reward will you enjoy?