Difficult conversations need to happen between caregivers and the loved ones for whom they are caring, as well as other family members. But how do you go about having those conversations?
Eboni Green, the CEO of Caregiver Support Services and the author of "Caregiving in the New Millennium," will be talking about "Bridging the Family Communication Gap" at Saturday's Striking a Balance Caregiver Conference from AGE of Central Texas and Area Agency on Aging.
Having conversations about what their loved one wants, Green says, "makes communications with the rest of the health care team easier."
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Doing this before a health crisis is ideal because you're not in a time of stress and the person can spell out exactly what their preferences are in care.
Often, families find themselves in a caregiving situation after their loved one has gone to the hospital. It doesn't end at that one visit, Green says. Instead, "they may have up to eight more hospitalizations over the course of caregiving," she says.
Often, families jump in without a realistic look at what caregiving is going to look like. "That may result in burnout and distress," she says.
Green says caregivers need to reach out to other family members to see what each person's strength is and what they are willing to do. Some members might be really good at organizing. Others might like to do the laundry. Others might prefer the bathing.
"You have folks that have different gifts," she says.
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Getting everyone's part mapped out can help the main caregiver not feel as overwhelmed.
Green also recommends coming to the conversation with this idea: "It's not about you," she says. Start by recognizing that the reason you are there is to address the needs of your loved one, she says. Don't get hung up on being right. That could derail the conversation you want to have, Green says.
Know what you want to accomplish before the conversation and work toward that. Also realize that this probably won't be one conversation. It's OK to give your family members time to think about the problem and come back to it.
Sometimes the conversation might be around needing outside help, such as in-home care or moving to a senior facility. If members are hesitant, Green says, you can frame that conversation around how that might help your relationship by allowing more time for meaningful interactions rather than scrambling to get all the care duties done.
One thing families often don't think about is that at some point, the care will end. "So much changes," Green says. Suddenly, all the routine around the caregiving is gone.
Talking to all the family members about what that grieving process will look like can be helpful, as is talking to your family throughout that process of grief.