CAREGIVING CORNER: What a Caregiver Needs Most
By Pati Bedwell, Elder Care Coordinator
It’s not easy being a caregiver. I know this from personal experience.
Caregivers need support. They need someone to turn to. Most don’t have anyone.
As an elder care coordinator in a Life Care Planning Law Firm, I specialize in supporting family caregivers. It’s one of the most important parts of my job.
What does this support look like? It can be anything. It can involve providing a second opinion about a decision a client needs to make. It could be offering my opinion about how to solve a problem or sharing my personal experience dealing with that problem. It might involve helping a family decide whether their loved one needs to be placed in a facility and helping them choose the right one.
Caregivers face many gut-wrenching decisions during the long-term care journey, but the placement decision can be one of the most agonizing. I can make the decision process much easier. I have been working with long-term care facilities in the Nashville area for over a decade. I know them all, and I know a lot of the people who work in them. I use that knowledge to guide you in the right direction. It saves more than just time and money. It saves heartache. It saves worry.
Support can also involve managing expectations. When a person steps into the caregiving role, they don’t realize that they’re signing up for a marathon, not a sprint. Caregiving is about the long haul. Sure, it might be a month. But it’s more likely to be a year or more. Sometimes it’s decades. No matter how long it lasts, caregiving is a long journey with many pitfalls along the way. As an elder care coordinator, my job is to let you know where those pitfalls are and to steer you around them.
When a new client signs up for a Life Care Plan, I am in the initial meeting with the family. I see how the primary caregivers come to us. They are exhausted. They are beaten down. They are used up. They are burned out. So many of them are sad, but not just because someone they love is going to die. Often their sadness stems from their belief that they have somehow failed in their caregiving role. They have failed as good sons or daughters. If they had been successful, they wouldn’t be sitting in our office talking about getting help. If only they had done more…
This is where the support of an elder care coordinator is especially important. These worn-out caregivers who view needing help as a sign of personal failure are facing a crisis of perspective. They have been providing care for so long, often without help from other family members, that they are no longer able to be objective about their situation. If something doesn’t change—and change soon—their own health may fail. They may get sick and die before the elders they are caring for, which happens to around 30% of family caregivers. You may be so dedicated to keeping your loved one out of a facility that you give your own life in the process.
My heart goes out to all family caregivers. They are brave. They are courageous. They are utterly spent. My job is to build them back up and to show them that they haven’t failed.
I help them wake up to the reality that few people stop to consider. No one can be a solo caregiver for long. Just think about how much time it takes to care for yourself. Think about what it takes to deal with the issues that come up in your own life every day. Now, double that effort. Double the work. That’s what you’re doing when you’re providing care for another person, a person with failing health, mental problems, financial problems, and more.
My job is to help them see the reality of their situation, to reassure them, to build their confidence, to show them the compassion that they may not be able to give themselves. Along the way, I provide education, tools, resources, and a shoulder to cry on. I give them what they need to continue trudging the path we call the elder care journey.
No, their journey isn’t over. It’s just that they’re no longer walking alone.
If any of this sounds familiar, please know that we are here for you. You don’t have to struggle alone.