Planning for what the unknown future holds
Guest Author: Rick Lauber
We don’t have to like aging and what it may bring, but we can make caregiving easier with planning
What is the common thread between moves, birthday parties, grocery shopping, business meetings, and caregiving? All of these go far better with planning. When it comes to caregiving for aging parents, many of us regrettably fail to plan. We rarely imagine that the day will come when doing this will become necessary (or turn a blind eye to this fact). Therefore, many family members wait far too long to begin thinking of caregiving, suddenly assume unexpected caregiving responsibilities, and struggle as a result. Why so? Possible reasons could include the following:
- Stubbornness (on behalf of seniors) to admit their aging, weakening, or health concerns to their children.
- Uneasiness (on a family member’s behalf) to discuss sensitive subjects with aging parents.
- Awkwardness (from all involved) to ask for help from others. As a former cocaregiver for my aging parents, I – admittedly – ignored how Mom and Dad were getting older and how their physical and/or mental health could – and would – decline. Mom and Dad had always been healthy and active and, perhaps, I didn’t want to acknowledge that things would change or face the saddening prospect of losing them.
But aging is the natural course of life and it can make things easier for both family caregivers and seniors). Granted, it will be impossible to plan for everything in the future, but family
caregivers can still plan for what can lie ahead on a smaller scale.
These important matters may be discussed verbally but writing plans down may be more beneficial. While a well-written care plan can take some time and effort to create, it can provide focus of what needs to be done as well as serve as a reminder of what was discussed, a means of organizing thoughts, and a road map of sorts to how things can be achieved.
Starting all of this can be overwhelming. As a writer myself, I know how intimidating a blank page can be. Before sitting down to write a story, I will often develop an outline. When developing a detailed care plan, family caregivers can use this same approach, brainstorm together, and consider the following:
What is wanted/needed? Is this still realistic or achievable? Can something still be done, adapted, and/or enjoyed at a lower level?
There is great truth to the saying, “Many hands make light work.” When collaborating, family caregivers, seniors, and a full care team can better accomplish what is required or desired. Can one family member be assigned to “lead” a project and keep others on-track? Can listed ideas be grouped together (to do several things in a day … ) or must they be done separately? While there are caregiving tasks that can be completed individually, there are others (needing more time, effort, and/or expertise) that require teamwork.
Planning is just the beginning … family caregivers must then act as the next step. When acting, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day … family caregivers will need to exercise patience.
When the task is completed (or even while the project is being done … ), family caregivers and seniors can review their progress and monitor the results. Was the outcome satisfactory to all involved? Is there a better way to achieve results? All of this is a learning process. Care plans need to be created with some give. Remembering my caregiving years, I learned that flexibility was key. While I often had a specific goal as to what needed doing when I visited Mom and Dad, there were days when I arrived to find Mom/Dad too tired, unwell, uncertain about what has been planned, or slower moving. When driving Mom/ Dad to an appointment, unexpected traffic can delay a trip. Family caregivers need to have a “plan B” and carry a cell phone with them. I recall one time when I was driving with Dad as a passenger, we experienced unexpected car troubles, and needed to call and reschedule our appointment and then request a tow. Family caregivers may find it necessary to rewrite/revise a care plan. This doesn’t mean the initial plan was a complete failure (or that the family caregiver cannot manage effectively); it simply means that a senior’s health needs can change. Initial decisions made may likely have to be altered.
Plans need to feel attainable. Starting small can be a good trick. List lesser caregiving tasks and share those responsibilities – one person doesn’t have to do everything. Perhaps one family member can pay the parental bills and another family member can balance the parental cheque book each month.
“List lesser caregiving tasks and share those responsibilities – one person doesn’t have to do everything.”
We don’t have to like aging and what it may bring, but we can make caregiving easier with planning.
Rick Lauber is a former co-caregiver, a published book author, and an established freelance writer. Lauber has written two books, Caregivers Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregivers Guide as valuable resources for prospective, new, and current caregivers. He has also served as a voluntary Board of Directors member for Caregivers Alberta. www.ricklauber.com
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