A stroke, a heart attack, the diagnosis of a serious illness or an accident takes everyone by surprise and can suddenly tip a family’s comfortable routine toward shock and chaos. Depending on the family chemistry and the relatives’ resilience, this sort of news could initially stun or cause panic. And when the dust settles after getting more information from the doctors, we can be left with questions about treatment, medications, health care, diet, living accommodations, costs, prognosis and many other topics. Or we may be so overwhelmed that we cannot think at all!
Because every person is different, the reaction to the news can be calm and sensible, completely emotional, or anywhere in between. Deciding on a plan of action has the potential for efficient coordination between medical staff and cooperative relatives, or for a battleground of pent up rivalries and resentments among family members. For the benefit of the care recipient, it is imperative that family come together as a team in order to provide compassionate and efficient caregiving!
How can a family address a new caregiving situation?
In our family, the rug was pulled from under our feet when the doctor called our dear father to tell him to go to the hospital right away: recent lab results had turned up something that needed further testing. It turned out to be multiple myeloma, quite advanced. Four months later, almost to the day, we were attending his funeral.
Looking back, the smooth caregiving machinery that developed within our family was amazing! From the minute we got the horrible news, we all looked online for information on the disease, we spoke with the doctors about his condition and treatment, we researched medications to learn about their efficacy and side effects, we got instructions for home care, coordinated efforts for rides to appointments and did whatever was needed in order to keep Dad comfortable. All of the information my brother, sister and I gathered, instructions we got from the doctors, observations made on their visits, services available and any other issues were circulated among family via email daily. We brainstormed, presented alternatives, made decisions, agreed to support them, and thanked each other for the work done. When new tasks arose, whoever was available to do them claimed them and did them. All 3 of us had busy schedules, but managed to make our father the priority. This continued non-stop for 4 months: an impressive team focused on Dad’s care, but considering Mom’s well-being along the way.
We never discussed who was in charge of Dad’s care, or who would make decisions. It was not important to us. We simply informed each other of the latest events, we agreed collectively and moved on to the next task. Our strict focus on helping and supporting Dad, who loved life and knew the consequences of a failed treatment, kept our thoughts and efforts in line with our goal. While we didn’t always initially agree, we respectfully considered each other’s points and then concurred on a unified solution. Not a single word of discord was ever uttered!
Any issues with our relatives or friends need to be put aside to allow for the necessary loving care to take place. The articles below suggest ways to come together as a family in order to provide compassionate and effective caregiving to our loved ones. Links also provide ways to keep everyone informed, to coordinate help and health care, and to support the caree.