A caregiver’s journey is unique in every sense of the word. Taking care of a loved one can be rewarding, joyful, emotional, frustrating and stressful all at the same time. For those who have already experienced being a caregiver, you know that it is impossible for one person to do everything indefinitely. As a loved one’s care needs escalate, care tasks are commonly divided among several people to avoid all responsibilities falling on one person’s shoulders.
However, as more caregivers are introduced, communication and information sharing become key in ensuring the quality of care for the care recipient. In later years, as care needs escalate even further, it is common for families to bring in outside help in the form of paid caregivers. This is when communication becomes even more important, as the sharing of information between caregivers can help ensure that key tasks are performed consistently.
Here are some things that should be shared between caregivers and what they can learn from each other in providing the highest quality of care possible.
Every caregiver knows that not all forms of care are welcomed by the care recipient and that there will be times of resistance. Knowing what “works” in overcoming the resistance can make a difference in the care recipient taking medications on time, eating lunch, or having a daily shower. Caregivers should share how they have been able to overcome resistance, thus saving time for everyone involved.
Decreasing appetite is a common occurrence in aging seniors. As meal portions get smaller, nutrition becomes even more important. To get the most out of every meal, caregivers can share their knowledge about the care recipient’s favourite meals. Is an omelette preferred at breakfast over boiled eggs? Is rotisserie chicken a favourite dinner item? In addition, as one ages, taste preferences also change. For example, one may not be able to endure spicy foods as well as before. Swallowing challenges can mean a switch to softer foods. All of this should be shared among all caregivers so that mealtimes go as smoothly as possible.
Particularly in cases of dementia, the care recipient may not always be able to specify verbally what they want to do or places they want to go, but other visuals and behaviours can indicate what their favourite pastimes are. Sharing information about favourite activities will mean that caregivers don’t have to guess about what to do with the care recipient and, instead, focus on activities and places that will be enjoyed.
This seems obvious but is often overlooked. Changes in medications, new symptoms and changes in existing medical conditions are all things that should be shared among caregivers. For example, new medications may trigger side-effects which should be monitored among caregivers at different times of the day. Signs of cognitive decline or short-term memory loss should be noted to document frequency of occurrence. New or increased pain levels may mean that a visit to the doctor is needed. Caregivers need to work as a team in monitoring the overall health of the care recipient.
Certain tasks may have to be communicated from one caregiver to another if something has been left unfinished or a new need has arisen. For example, a caregiver may notice certain groceries have to be purchased soon or that a certain home repair is necessary. A trip to the doctor may result in a new prescription which has to be taken by another family member to the pharmacy. Clear communication reduces the risk of something falling between the cracks.
Sharing learnings and information is key in promoting a team approach in caregiving. Even if there are both paid and family caregivers in the mix, it is possible for everyone to work together in discovering the best ways to deliver the needed care. In our next post, we’ll talk about things that remote caregivers can do to participate in the caregiving process, even when they live really far away!