Being the primary caregiver for an elderly family member is complicated at best. There are medications and appointments to track, meals to plan, cognitive issues to address, and personal hygiene to attend to. Family members who are not involved in the senior’s day-to-day care may be supportive or resentful. They may interfere or offer help. Complicated family dynamics can add pressure and anxiety to already overwhelmed caregivers.
There is no absolute way to appease distant family members. The best thing a caregiver can do is to consistently communicate with key family members in order to provide a window of understanding into the complexities and uncertainties of caring for an aging loved one. In many instances, this information can reduce anxiety and criticism from family members who cannot or do not want to walk in the caregiver’s shoes.
The strategy is to deliver as many details as possible so that family members begin to understand the enormity of caring for an aging loved one. The goal is to give them a sense of the loved one’s health status and what their days are like. This does not mean that the caregiver has to keep a carefully written journal; unpolished daily information is usually the most powerful. Here are some tips on how to efficiently communicate with family members:
1. Keep a running list of notes that you jot down throughout the day and week. You can write them electronically in an email draft or in a notebook. At the end of the week send the email or copy the pages and mail them. Paper pages can also be scanned and emailed or sent via Skype.
2. Tiny details tell the biggest story. Relay things that your loved one says during the day. Make a note when they say them so you won’t forget. They are the tiniest things in daily life that speak the loudest. For example; Mom suddenly doesn’t like Earl Grey tea- her lifelong favorite; Dad hates his favorite doctor or now loves watching tennis on television which used to bore him. This is the information that gives family members a stark view of daily life.
3. Photos and videos tell the story firsthand. Phones can quickly capture photos and videos of your loved one that will effectively convey their current physical and mental status. Take advantage of mobile apps and use Snapchat or Instagram to send photos.
4. Schedule Skype calls. Don’t worry about corralling all of your family members for a call. Schedule the call according to the best time of day for your loved one. This is a great way for family members to see their loved one for themselves and intimately understand their status.
Despite all these efforts, some family members may never be satisfied with your care. However, the information you communicate may ease criticism from those who think they could do a better job.
At the end of the day you deserve support. Home Care Assistance can provide it to you. We offer numerous services ranging from hourly and daily care to specialized care for stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. You can review our Home Care Advantage checklist to see how we might best assist you and your loved one.
If you have ideas on how to keep family members in the caregiving loop we want to hear them. Please share them with us and let us know what works for you.