Caregiving for an Elderly Parent as Part of a Team


According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, one in six Americans now provides caregiving support to someone age 50 or older. Such caregivers often do not fulfill their duties alone but work as part of a caregiving team.

Caregiving teams come in many varieties. Siblings might work together to provide care. Siblings and other relatives might share care duties. Relatives and friends and neighbors might provide informal caregiving help together. Children of elderly parents might share duties with paid help or home health nurses.

No matter who is in your team, it can be challenging to schedule times, duties, and expectations for care among team members. Keep in mind the following suggestions to keep your team working smoothly together and providing the best caregiving help possible.

Communication Is Key

Effective communication is often the key to successful teamwork. This goes double for caregiving teams. It is vital to set up efficient communication routines that everyone in the group can agree with and participate in.

Whether you decide to send group texts or emails with updates, keep a written log of concerns and events, or even contact one another with phone calls or in person, everyone must be informed. The information that most typically needs to be shared are physical symptoms and concerns, medication routines and changes, personal hygiene assistance, meal prep, and (perhaps most importantly) which team member has responsibility for which job duties and time shifts.

In addition to frequent updates (twice daily, daily, weekly; the frequency depends on the level of care required by your parent), group members might also want to set aside time for in-person group meetings. Although they don’t have to be lengthy, these meetings can help all carers touch base, ask questions of one another, make decisions more efficiently than they can be made on email chains, and also provide time for commiseration and mutual support.

Set Clear Expectations

Depending on who is part of your caregiving team, expectations for care standards and remuneration for caregiving services must be decided upon ahead of time.

No matter who is involved in your team, volunteer family members or paid caregivers, they will have other demands in their lives. Many caregivers are not only helping look after elderly parents and relatives, they also are helping other family members, children, or children with physical disabilities or learning challenges. Often they have at least one other job, and must also keep up with the other responsibilities of life, like their own health appointments, shopping, and food preparation.

Everyone will come to the job of caregiving with different expectations for acceptable levels of care. For some, “meal preparation” will mean simply that some kind of food is being consumed on a regular schedule, while others might think every meal must be balanced in nutrients and food groups. For some, a “passably” clean house will be sufficient; for others, cleaning schedules should be followed rigorously.

As the person receiving care ages and needs more help, try to meet with the other members of your team early in the process. Discuss differing standards and find common ground for house and shopping tasks. Write down considerations that are more rigid – like proper medicine dosing and schedules – and be more flexible on items that do not have as direct an impact on the elderly person’s health.

Likewise, make sure to educate yourselves on the prevailing wage levels and job expectations in your area. Agree among yourselves how much you can pay for help, and what requirements you all have for hired helpers.

Be Gentle with One Another

Depending on the illness of or challenges facing the elderly parent you are helping, it can be very challenging to be a caregiver for those with dementia or significant physical handicaps.

Perhaps the best thing a caregiving team can provide for its members is understanding and solidarity. By working as part of a team, the hope is that all members will still have time for their other duties and self-care.

If followed carefully, the first two suggestions will help your team be gentle with one another. Good communication can both save time and provide lighthearted moments and positive stories, while clear expectations can help co-workers get along better.

Group members should also be encouraged to share tips and techniques that help in their particular situations. By offering one another understanding, they will increase their capacity to understand and be compassionate about the person to whom they’re providing care.

Caregiving is a big responsibility. Working as part of a caregiving team can be a great way to share a time-consuming and labor-intensive job. Remember to encourage good communication, keep expectations clear, and be kind to one another.




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