Attitudes about Caregiving Education

I don’t need it!
I’m too busy!
I’m so over it!

Family Caregiver Education – The Caring Generation®
by Pamela Wilson May 30, 2020
The Caregiving Generation Talk Radio:  Caregiver Training

Honestly? Caregiving can be a real bummer. Although nobody wants to talk about being or needing a caregiver, it is a subject that we can no longer ignore.  The COVID-19 pandemic has made it abundantly clear: 1) Adult children are worried about their parents getting the virus; and 2) Caregiving is one more item to add to the “Things to Do Better” list for future generations.

After my 7-year stint as a caregiver, I wrote What to Do about Mama?  I thought that people just might benefit from what I had learned from both my job as an Assessor at the Area Agency on Aging and my caregiving experience. Since the book was first published, I have found that caregiving is a topic people avoid—like the plague.  And of course, there’s now a lot of irony in that statement. 

On her Caregiving Generation Talk Radio program, Pamela D Wilson, stresses the importance of  Family Caregiver Training and Caregiving Courses.  The following is a synopsis of her discussion peppered with some of my own thoughts and views. 

Caregiving is an unexpected experience—something we don’t usually plan for until a health care crisis occurs.  Like the pandemic (or a plague) caregiving needs can come on suddenly and find you unprepared.  Adult children may not even realize they have taken on the role of caregiver because helping parents by picking up groceries or prescriptions is not how they define the term.   But then needs escalate and the list grows to include such tasks as providing transportation to doctor appointments, assisting with money management and bill paying, providing meals, and making legal, medical and care decisions. Working caregivers who become distracted and are unprepared can feel like life is reeling out of control, not knowing where to turn for help.  Even today, caregiving is viewed as a family responsibility. The workplace may not recognize how employees are effected by their caregiver responsibilities or how the stress impacts the workplace.

Developing a Care Plan Good communication among all the significant parties is the best means to develop a successful caregiving plan. However, communication skills are developed over a lifetime. They don’t suddenly become “good,” especially when family members are dealing with the problems and stresses that arise from caregiving needs. Of primary importance is the individual who needs the assistance and care. If that person’s values and wishes are not respected and taken into consideration, you are bound to run into resistance and conflict. Who doesn’t want to remain in the driver’s seat of life? It is imperative to respect your loved one’s independence and dignity—it is, after all, that person’s right to make choices and decisions.

What to Do about Mama? pp. 152-153

It is Pamela Wilson’s position that caregiving courses should be made available through corporate employee health and wellness programs—much like maternity leave and support programs for families raising children.  Family caregiver education and support not only minimizes unexpected and disruptive crises by making a significant difference in the lives of caregivers and their elderly parents, it also helps companies achieve health and wellness program goals of reducing health insurance costs and use.  I would add here that family caregiver education would also be a beneficial addition to life skills curriculums in our schools.   

My mother’s death eased things for me at work, but only to the extent that I realized my boss so resented my need for “flexibility” of hours during my mother’s lengthy end, that our relationship was over. Luckily, an advocate of mine in senior management had another position she felt would be ideal for me—and she offered it to me at my same salary. So, I took it. It’s been a whole new lease on life! I really feel energized, and I’m hoping to keep it until I’m seventy. (I had to take out some loans to finance all the help I had, so this will expunge all that debt by the time I finally do retire.) If I had been allowed to work from home, I would not have needed to take out loans, but my boss at the time would not even consider it. That still hurts. I was literally paying people to watch my mother sleep—something I could have done while I worked from home. But, getting over this means getting over the anger: Get mad; get over it!

What to Do about Mama? pp. 293-294

Pamela Wilson has developed a family caregiver education course. 
Taking Care of Elderly Parents: Stay at Home and Beyond consists of the following:

  • Module 1 Managing Emotions, Family Relationships and Elderly Parents who Refuse Care
  • Module 2 Signs Elderly Parents Need Care: Creating Strategies and Starting Conversations
  • Module 3 Activities of Daily Living, the Effects of Aging on Physical Activity
  • Module 4 Home Safety for Seniors
  • Module 5 Stay Healthy: Daily Routines to Support Positive Care for Elderly Parents
  • Module 6 Memory Loss
  • Module 7 Paying for care for elderly parents
  • Module 8 In Taking Care of Elderly Parents: Stay at Home, and Beyond

While I was listening to Pamela Wilson’s podcast, I was gratified to note that her curriculum addresses a great deal of the material contained in What to Do about Mama?  Expectations and Realities of Caregiving.  This is not a book by experts—but a book based upon the real-life experiences of caregivers in the trenches.  In my opinion, family caregiver education should be based on theory and experience because both perspectives have relevance.  

A productive family meeting can build a strong foundation for family caregiving. Do you share common values? Talk about what is most important to all of you—autonomy or safety—or whether you place equal weight on both. Establish common goals. Divide responsibility based on the strengths and abilities each of you brings to the family. It is important to be specific. Develop a contract that delineates the commitments family members have made, and solidify those commitments with signatures that verify that everyone understands and agrees to the plan. Be sure to date the contract in case changes are needed later on.

What to Do about Mama? p. 155

Family Caregiver Education creates awareness and provides helpful information. Prepare today to be ready tomorrow. For those people who avoid the subject, becoming a caregiver will be a shock. For those who face it, you will know what to expect and the road will be smoother.

[We} have completed our wills, living wills, powers of attorney, and medical powers of attorney. And because it befits us all to have the “difficult discussion” well before the time of need arises, we have completed the questions found in The Conversation Project Starter Kit and discussed them with our children.

What to Do about Mama? p. 302