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You are still a caregiver when you get outside help

by Carol Bradley Bursack, Editor-in-Chief

Caregivers often feel guilty, as if they are giving up on their elders when they hire an agency. If you are in this position, you should learn that extra help can make you a better caregiver.

You Are Still a Caregiver When You Get Outside Help

True or false?

A. You are only providing good care for your parents if you provide all the care yourself.

B. You are only a caregiver if you take care of them in their home or yours.

If you answered true to either of these statements, you should take a second look at elder caregiving.

Realizing You Can't Do It All Yourself

Taking care of your loved ones means giving them the best care you can provide. Often, during the early years, that typically means your own loving, hands-on care. However, as their needs grow, the best care sometimes means you need to hire help to come into the home or arrange adult day care while you work. Perhaps it means they need to move to assisted living or even a nursing home.

Remember, none of these changes in caregiving arrangements means you give up your role as caregiver.

Changes in care arrangements simply mean that now you are not providing all of the hands-on care. Instead, you may help with some care, but additionally you now can act as a direct advocate for your elders and responsible to oversee the help you pay for.

In other words, you are still a caregiver, but your duties have shifted. You may still be on call 24/7, but you should have enough help so that you can get some sleep. If there is an emergency, you can be alerted. If there is a change in medication, you can be told. If there is a trip to the emergency room in progress, you may be asked to accompany your loved one or meet the ambulance there.

Believe me, you may still have your work cut out for you. But you should have help.

Team Caregiving: Be an Advocate

One of your most important jobs is being your loved one's advocate with the care agency you do hire. Being an advocate doesn't mean you create an adversarial relationship with the paid caregivers who now help provide care.

Quite the contrary.

The more you make it clear that you are all a team, the better your relationship with the hired caregivers should be.

I firmly believe that one reason my elders were so beloved in their nursing home was not only that it was a good home, which it was, but every caregiver who helped my elders knew I lived two blocks away. They knew that I was there not only when absolutely needed, but I was there every day to bring treats and other items my elders wanted and to make sure they felt loved and cared for.

The caregivers also knew I respected them for their professionalism and for their good hearts. I praised their caring natures and every other thing I could find to praise. I learned names. I smiled and greeted them as friends. We developed a friendly, joking relationship which came in handy during stressful times of illness and fatigue.

The Best Possible Caregiving Takes More Than One Person

This team cooperation paid off in the care my loved ones received, in my own peace of mind, and it reminded me that I was an important part of the caregiving process. I wasn't abdicating my responsibilities. I was providing the best care possible for my elders.

That care just happened to include paid help, since my elders all needed services I couldn't properly provide on my own. Rather than diminishing my role, accepting help made me a better caregiver overall.

It can do the same thing for you.