When thrown into the situation of being a caregiver, you start to plan and make lists. You start asking questions. You are herding cats.
If you are raising a child, special needs or not, you only trust who you know or get recommendations from them. You ask around for babysitters, daycare providers, pre-school programs, mommy-and-me groups, etc. You most likely hit up care.com if you are an active hunter. Leveraging time is key. So you try to figure out everyone’s hectic schedule and somehow it always works out.
In any care situation, leverage what you can. If there is an emergency, find a friend that can coordinate a meal being brought over. Or carpool your kids. Check out your local dry-cleaners if they do pick up service and traditional laundry service. Life has become so mobile and leveraged, there is a delivery service quickly being offered for most mundane life event – grocery shopping, pet care, transportation, same day service. If it is not here yet, it will be. Don’t try to leverage everything out if you are strapped for cash. Try a service that, if used, would open up the most time and stress on your list. As an enticement, you can find a code for free delivery on first order or discount on service with most companies. The expansion of Amazon with prime services has changed the way many consumers shop. And most likely if you are reading this blog, you have ordered something from them.
Asking leverage within your family unit can be extremely tricky. You need to assess every person and consider the dynamics of your relationship and the relationship they have with the person or thing (ie. pets) needing care. You wouldn’t want to place your teenage child that is absorbed wholly into video games or phone apps to care for a friend’s toddler that has a vigor for life. You wouldn’t use your husband to watch over your great aunt if she is needing toileting assistance. He just may not feel comfortable wiping a woman unrelated to him by blood. And especially if your great aunt has never liked him from the start of your relationship. In both situations, not only do the caregivers look mismatched, if something happens, you get earfuls on both ends.
We have a mismatch in my family. I won’t say who, but if everyone else on the field is injured or benched, the last string quarterback will get to play. Now this person wants to help when they can but they really don’t want to. Their personality is mismatched to my dad. This person has been developed into a tag team partner. They are called in for short companion needs which for them will be just having my father sit in his recliner or bed and this person is there if my dad needs to be toileted or fed. Even feeding is pushing it. This person will stay in the room but do their own thing – read, play a game on their phone, or occupy their time in another way. Sometimes they will watch tv with Dad and if the topic strikes them both, we may have communication. We know that this person is extremely stressed in this caregiving situation. But they are a loyal and dependable care partner. So we only call in this last string quarterback if it’s only necessary.
If someone volunteers to help, take it. If they are a person that will not work well with your caregiving need, they can do some caregiving for you. Have them cook a meal, or do a load of laundry, or help clean a room or two. If they are a neighbor, ask them to cut the grass, play with your dog, watch your kids, or help string up the Christmas lights. I remember when I was a kid, a few times I would go to my next door neighbors house if my parents were going to be gone for several hours and I was coming home to an empty house. When there, I had a snack usually, talked to my neighbor, and she would show me her crafting skills. I was bored most of the time, but enjoyed her company.
Considering I was born in 1983, how much does this good neighbor attitude exist today? Many people I talk to when selling their home know only 1 or 2 of their neighbors enough to know some things about them. Most homeowners give vague descriptions and observations. Neighborly doesn’t really exist much anymore. And I’m just as guilty for this behavior. Maybe before anything happens, walk across the yard or street and say hello one day. Pick a neutral topic and just have a nice chat. I only got to know my neighbors when I sold my house. I would stand outside during showings with my dog in toe. My neighbors, being nosy for the house price and status, would come out and talk. Or some would show up at the open houses. I made enough connections through these opportunities to relay this to the buyers. Buyers always ask. Since I’m a realtor, I have to keep to fair housing things so I never bring up anything that violates that law. I talk about my neighbors who own versus rent, their pets, best holiday decor, and how long they’ve been in the neighborhood.
But I digress…
If you don’t like your neighbors, start with a church friend, or co-worker. Maybe join a support group and see if there are people who can “buddy up” with caregiving time. Like playdates. There are some locations like churches or community centers that offer care time. So you can leave your loved one there for a few hours and do things for yourself.
The thing to remember is, there are people who can and want to help. Just figure out what suits you and your loved one best and take every opportunity if there is a benefit. There are things called respite services. Respite is for the caregiver. It means to have a reprieve from care. Here is a locator search to help find leverage. It’s not the greatest search engine, but it can be a start.
Love and Compassion,