Even though it is often done often out of love, caregiving is very much like a job. Similar to any job in the “working world,” it comes with a set of tasks, responsibilities, time pressures, and requirements. But a caregiver is less like an employee and more like the head of the company. This month Elder Voice talks about the caregiver as CEO.
The CEO in business is ultimately responsible for the company; caregivers are ultimately responsible for the person they are caring for. Both need to be as effective as possible in their role. They need to be efficient and confident; they need to know how to find systems, resources, and people.They also need to learn to create effective systems and teams inside the company, and put everything together.
Here are 10 tips on on being successful as a Caregiver CEO:
- Remember, the CEO is not a sole proprietor. They surround themselves with a team of people they can trust and rely on. Build a team that works for you the way it does for the best CEO. Who do you need on your team? In addition to your physician, it might include a pharmacist, a physiotherapist, a counsellor, a financial advisor, an elderlaw attorney, and a reliable home care company. Your team should also include people you can rely on for emotional support–family, friends, neighbours and spiritual advisor. If asking for support makes you uncomfortable, imagine switching positions with someone you care about. If they asked you for help, would you do it? Of course you would – with compassion, and pride that you had been asked. Allow others to be that person for you.
- Now that you have your team in place, learn how to delegate. As your role because more complex and time consuming, use your team members more often. As a company grows and its work becomes more complicated, a CEO will ensure more people are hired. As your work becomes more complicated, you will need to expand your team as well.
- Good CEOs have contingency plans. As a caregiver, you’ll be well served by expecting the unexpected and being prepared for an emergency. If your loved has a fall, wanders off, has to go to hospital, or anther emergency occurs, know what your action plan will be. Who will you contact? Who can you count on? What papers might you need? Who will take on other responsibilities in your life? You’ll want to be able to go into “damage control” and problem solving mode as fast as possible.
- CEOs know their industry. Develop your expertise by educating yourself–about the healthcare system, your loved one’s conditions, the services available to help and how to access them and about the various types of seniors housing. There are books, articles, online forums and websites that specialize in the things you need to know. There are also courses you can take online and from various service providers.
- CEOs understand the value of networks. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel on how to be an effective caregiver. Develop your network. Your colleagues are also caregivers–the people who are doing or have done the job you are doing. You can find them in a support group or in a care facility, in your place of worship, among your friends and their friends, and online.
- The CEO will find a consultant to fill in gaps. Sometimes it may be more efficient and less stressful to hire a consultant for caregiving issues. Consultants are also found in the organization which is devoted to the condition you are dealing with such as the Alzheimer’s Association, Diabetes, Stroke Foundation, or others. It is in these organizations you will find people with some of the most current knowledge and experience. At Diamond Geriatrics we provide a range of consultative services such as care management, counselling, seniors housing consultations, and health care advocacy and navigation
- CEOs maintain clear documentation of their activities and results. If a CEO leaves, the company can continue to function because there are policies and procedures. If something happens to you–is all the paperwork there so that the work will continue smoothly? Develop and keep records and systems for the work you are doing. Have files where you keep all of the information you need about health, medications, treatments, a will and power of attorney.
- CEOs anticipate growth by knowing about equipment, supplies, and suppliers. As a loved one’s care needs increase, caregivers often need equipment and supplies such as incontinent products, adaptive clothing, wheelchairs and walkers, lifts, alarms, and more. Learn about these products; a good place to start is Home Health companies and your colleagues and team members.
- CEOs make difficult decisions, and you may have to as well. Be prepared beforehand by considering scenarios in which you may have to make those decisions. Consult with with specialists, family members, etc, so you understand the alternatives and have considered possible courses of action. Understand that this might included taking charge or making decisions that your loved one may not like, but you know need to happen. The more you plan for the potential scenarios, the easier it will be to make a decision in a crisis.
- The CEO is there for the good of the company. There may come a day when you may have to step down both for the good of the person you are caring for and for yourself. This means you will have to acknowledge that your family life or health is suffering or the job is overwhelming or too complex. It does not mean you are going to abandon your loved one, it means you are looking for a different way of getting the job done. This is a time when you will need to follow #9, and make the most difficult of many difficult decisions.