Building Your Caregiver Network

Several years ago I was delivering a workshop for family caregivers when I noticed someone in the audience crying. It didn’t seem appropriate to proceed without at least acknowledging this person’s discomfort and possibly adjusting my message. I paused and gently asked, “Is everything okay?”

The caregiver responded that, yes, everything was great…now.  This person (in mid-forties) had been caring for a dependent parent with physical disabilities since early teens—with no knowledge of CICOA and no outside assistance.  Surely decades of caregiving for one’s parent—while so young, even to middle age—represents significant losses and challenges.  As it turned out, though, the tears were not about loss, but rather tears of relief that help exists. Now that resources (i.e. the advent of a “caregiver network”) were known and accessible, life was about to become better for both parent and caregiver!

Which individuals comprise your caregiver network?  If you’re relatively new at this, perhaps you haven’t given much thought to taking inventory of people who are able to help meet a variety of needs. Most of us have a good idea of the essentials for such a network, but we need to be as comprehensive as possible.

Just for starters, an effective caregiver network can be divided into at least two tiers.  Tier #1 consists of those resources that should actually provide direct support.

Tier #1

  • The primary care physician, specialists and other clinicians/therapists
  • Professional service providers, e.g. adult day service or assisted living staff, attorney, pharmacist
  • The local Area Agency on Aging (CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions), for information and referral or for other services such as in-home assistance with personal care, home-delivered meals, transportation, SHIP counseling, etc.
  • Family members
  • A caregiver support group
  • Neighbors, friends
  • Members of one’s faith community

It’s the second tier that we might be inclined to overlook.  However, they are vital assets for the network, if only for their frequent contact, friendly concern and familiarity with the loved one, potentially lending opportunities to recognize changes in his/her patterns.

Tier #2

  • Mail carrier/postal clerk
  • Hairdresser or barber
  • Bank teller
  • Landlord
  • Store clerks
  • Librarian
  • Senior center friends and staff
  • Police and fire departments

This tier is likely to grow and shift depending on circumstances. No doubt you can identify others who should be in your own Tier #2.  Caregiving does take a village, after all, and no one should go it alone!

Please take time to give your caregiver network some thought, and be bold in pursuing the support you need.  Finally, always remember that your CareAware Options Counselors are here to help.  Contact us at (317) 803-6002 or caregivers@cicoa.org.


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