Guest Column: Family support teams work together to provide care to their elderly members — part two

Editor’s note: Part one of this series appeared in the Nov. 9-15, 2011, issue.

By Pastor Randall Hargate, C.A.P.S. — C.L.T.C.
Crossroads Christian Fellowship

It is estimated that 65 million Americans are caring for an aging family member as a part of their everyday living experience. Any of these caregivers can testify to the fact that it is much more effective to work as a team to provide the most effective care-giving strategies.

Family support teams are nothing new and have been a natural progression of the life cycle ever since humans have existed. Today, however, because of our elders living longer, this season calls for more planning, commitment and teamwork. While we do have the opportunity to withdraw from our responsibilities toward our elders, it is difficult to escape the high calling of participating in caring for our elders. Some of the motivating factors we should consider when caring for our loved ones are quite convincing, factors such as:

1. Our call to “honor our mother and father” is a high calling that compels us to action. This “compelling” originates in the fifth of the 10 commandments. Though each person should consider to what degree they are able to fulfill this Judaeo-Christian instruction, to completely neglect our responsibility or to push it on other family members goes against this Christian principle.

2. To prevent a nursing home stay for our loved one is a loving and practical motivator within itself. A nursing home confinement is the greatest fear most of our elderly have, and if institutionalized care can be prevented, love has shown itself in a way your elder will cherish during the twilight of their life.

3. The inheritance your elders will be leaving to the ones who are most likely to care for them should not be the primary motivation to provide care for your elderly loved ones, but it is a legitimate concern each family should consider. A positive byproduct of participating in your family’s eldercare support team is to prevent the “spent down” on a nursing home confinement. Medicare pays very little of these expenses, and at $70,000 or more a year, the inheritance can be eaten away fairly quickly.

There are many additional motivators that compel eldercare strategies. Any one of these three is reason enough for each family to work together toward their common goal of “honoring their mother and father.”

The following is a list of simple ground rules you can use to establish a family support team your family can implement to care for your elderly loved one:

1. One person is often chosen as a “primary caregiver.” This does not mean they do “primarily all the work.” Their duties include offering oversight and management to the strategy the family has developed. In addition, a list of services that are needed is presented to the participating team members. This list is also presented to those who do not participate in the team. This keeps them aware of the time and effort offered by others.

2. Each person attached to the elder (by blood or friendship bond) should be introduced to their loved one’s needs and the objectives the family has agreed upon.

3. The family should make a list of the daily, weekly and monthly needs the elder has and cannot complete on their own.

4. Understanding that many loved ones do not live in close enough proximity to be able to provide care, be realistic about who can participate. Geographical barriers have caused many eldercare goals to be left to those who live closest. This can cause a disproportional burden upon those who live closest and can cause animosity and bitterness among those who do, those who can’t and those who won’t. If the duties fall upon a single person or a small percentage of family members, then compensation, or a larger inheritance percentage for these disproportionally affected caregivers, is often offered to balance the disproportional burden upon the caregiver.

5. Understand that each team, no matter how large or how small, can only make their best attempt at fulfilling the goals previously defined. No one can predict the outcome of an eldercare strategy, and, if you cannot accomplish your goals, know when to say institutional help is the wisest decision. When your caregiving duties start compromising the health of the caregivers, it is time to reconsider your objectives. The ones who are providing the care are best suited to make these decisions on behalf of their elderly loved one. If the elder is able to contribute their insight, their opinion should always be heavily considered, but at the end of the day, the decision is corporately made by those most affected.

This short overview of family support teams is intended as an overview and a starting point to encourage you to begin preplanning your aging-in-place strategy. Gather family members together and begin discussing this most important issue, and you will be a step ahead of whatever may come your way. Utilizing the services of capable professionals such as social workers or geriatrics care managers is encouraged. Locally, a licensed geriatric care manager can be contacted at Geriatric Care Management Services, (815) 977-9356, Lorna Sullivan R.N., C.H.P.N., is a certified geriatric care manager and can help you devise a functional family support team.

Our intention is to help you develop a plan before a crisis occurs. Equally, we hope to offer helpful ideas if you are in the midst of an eldercare crisis. Any questions you would like to see addressed in future articles can be forwarded to my e-mail address at

Pastor Randall Hargate C.A.P.S. — CLTC is pastor of Crossroads Christian Fellowship in Rockford and founder of a local adult daycare called Crossroads Adult Day Services. He is also author of the book The First Commandment With Promise — A Christian guide to eldercare planning, available through

From the Jan. 4-10, 2012, issue

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