HOW TO: Creating a Elder Care Support Network to Reduce Stress

It is important to remember that when caring for an adult parent that you also care for yourself as well.  Any form of elder care can be draining on an emotional, physical and time commitment level.  In order to be able to sustain your generous efforts, you need to seek out and be able to ask for assistance.  You will want a network of people and agencies you can rely on for consistent support, when you need a respite or in the event of an elder care crisis.

As you begin to develop the support team as described below, remember that the key to success lies in the ability to ask for help.  Even if other family members live farther away, still enlist their assistance and together you will come up with ways they can best support you.

Steps for Developing Your Support Network

  1. Make a list of each person who may be available to you such as family, friends, neighbors, members of your community groups and churches. For each person take note of the following:
  2. Phone number for easy reference
  3. What they are available and willing to provide in the form of help
  4. What days and times they can offer to you
    1. Check with your local Area Agency on Aging for respite and other assistance.
    2. Create a list of your regular responsibilities both in the role as caregiver and your personal duties to yourself and your immediate family.  Don’t forget to include activities such as picking up your children from school or practice or helping with other errands.
    3. Next to each task estimate the duration of time (including commute) so that you can provide a realistic time commitment to your network and you do not feel the stress of rushing around.
    4. Begin asking your network in what areas they would be most able to support you.  Because your list is detailed and specific it will be easier to get positive responses for these individual needs.

It really helps in sharing some of the responsibility if you make this list easily accessible to other members of your family so that if need be, they can make phone calls in case a change or crisis should arise.  Remember that just because you took the initiative to create the network system does not mean you have to manage it alone.

Other Resources

In order to help you create, complete and maintain a thorough and organized support system, I have developed easy-to-use worksheets in the workbook of The By Families, For Families Guide to Assisted Living Workbook.  While the book is written for assisted living, the worksheets are applicable to all levels of care.

photo: BrittneyBush

Assisted Living Saved My Mom in Oregon

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Oregon to speak at three assisted living communities across the state.  I posted some pictures of the event on the Inside Elder Care Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/eldercare.  Brookdale brought me up from California to visit three communities—all from distinct areas within Oregon.  They were:

  • Albany – small towns set in an agricultural area just southeast of Portland
  • McMinnville – right in the center of Oregon wine country
  • Gresham – at the base of Mount Hood (yes, I was cold)

At each community, I gave a talk entitled Assisted Living Saved My Mom—a presentation communities ask me to give that provides an insider’s view about how to determine which assisted living community is best for your family.  Assisted Living Saved My Mom shares many techniques that uncover information you would never get from just speaking to an admissions director.  Brookdale provided a copy of my book to each who attended—something appreciated by the attendees.  Based on the large amount of feedback I received from attending families and people in the industry, the message really hit home and benefited many people.

Despite the obvious differences in the locations of each of these communities, I found a few things in common:

  • Warm and friendly: nearly every person I met—from the staff to the residents—were very welcoming and warm.
  • Pride: there is a strong sense of pride in the residents that carried over to their feeling that it was their responsibility to make new residents comfortable.
  • Camaraderie: I got the feeling that the residents genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. You could tell because they all knew each other’s little quirks and habits—something they found amusing.

One thing that came up repeatedly was the concern over “How do I pay for this stuff?” Many people were surprised there were other payment options beside just selling their house and paying cash.

When I wrote the By Families, For Families Guide to Assisted Living, I interviewed nearly 200 families to ask them about the concerns related to assisted living and elder care.  The issue of paying for elder care came up as a primary concern from almost three-quarters of those families.

The financial issues are the elephant in the room.  Most people don’t know how to solve them or even where to start, because there is no holistic guide for families on how to navigate these issues.  I am a month or two away from releasing my second book that gets into these answers—the feedback from those that have seen it has been really positive.  Stay tuned.