Caregiving often causes stress, which can result in increased health problems, disrupted social relationships, burnout, depression and decreased quality of care for their loved one. Too often caregivers don’t recognize their own needs or simply don’t know where to turn for help. It is essential for caregivers to seek the support of family, friends and community resources. Learning to ask for help is an essential part of being a good caregiver. One way to get help is to form your own Support Team. By providing organized assistance, Support Teams ease caregiver stress.
A Support Team is a group of people organized to provide practical, emotional, and spiritual support to caregivers. Much of the support is provided in the caregiver’s home. The idea is to ask people to do what they can, when they can, in a coordinated way to meet the needs of the caregiver. The four components of this team are the caregiver, a team of friends or volunteers, family, and a team leader. The concept of the Support Team is based on Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health (REACH) II, which was funded to design and test a single multi-component intervention among family caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. The overall objectives of REACH II were to 1) identify and reduce modifiable risk factors among diverse family caregivers of patients with ADRD, 2) enhance the quality of care of the care recipients, and 3) enhance the well-being of the caregivers. The REACH II intervention sought to increase caregiver knowledge, skills, and well-being while enhancing support to the caregiver.
The first step is to educate yourself on everything related to taking care of your loved one and the disease. As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills may be necessary. Alzheimer’s Texas offers a variety of programs and information to help you better understand and cope with the behaviors and personality changes that often accompany ADRD. It is important for you to be informed about legal, financial, housing and care planning. As you gather information, consider organizing it in a binder or other holder. It is recommended to organize the information by topic. That way you will have one place to go to reference information you have gathered. Visit www.txalz.org for local classes and conferences. Visit www.caregiverucentx.org for listings of Powerful Tools for Caregivers and Savvy Caregiver classes near you. Spring classes are listed on page 2.
Next, recruit your team. Team members can be friends, neighbors, family members, church or other social acquaintances. It is important for you to identify your needs: reducing social isolations, accessing community resources or increasing attention to self-care and healthy behaviors. Team activities may include gardening, running errands, or preparing special meals. They could play dominoes, make memory books, play music or offer other activities to give the caregiver a break.
The team approach allows team members to do what they love to do in a practical, helpful way. For example, if you have a friend that enjoys going to the grocery store and shopping, you can approach them to do your shopping for you once a month, perhaps. If you know someone who love to garden, maybe they would be willing to weed your yard or do other seasonal work. Have a friend that loves to cook? They may be willing to cook extra once in a while to bring to you. Again, the key is finding melding what the team member likes to do with what you need. Even the littlest things can make a big difference.
Their role is to support you, so that you can be the best caregiver possible. Start by asking for a six month commitment. Each team member decides how much time they have to give on a month to month basis. The team works to coordinate care based on each member’s availability. It may also be necessary to share your knowledge about ADRD with your team members.
The final component of the Support Team is the team leader. The Support Team leader is responsible for organizing and managing the team and maintaining a monthly calendar of members’ visits and duties. They remain in contact with the caregiver to make sure the needs are being met. The time commitment can vary due to the different styles of teams and situations that arise. It may work to have your team members rotate being team leader, so the task doesn’t always fall on one person’s shoulders. It is not recommended for the caregiver to be the leader, as they may only add stress, the opposite desired outcome of this program. A relative that is not the primary caregiver may be an excellent option. Be sure to utilize on-line calendars such as Care Calendar www.carecalendar.org or Lotsa Helping Hands www.lotsahelpinghands.com. Share the Care is also a great resource www.sharethecare.org.