If you’re a new caregiver or someone who’s been recently diagnosed with a chronic illness, you might be wondering how you’ll take care of everything yourself or who to go to if you need assistance. Setting up a community of care for yourself is a way to get others involved in your caregiving or in your own care so that you don’t have to do it all yourself. A community of care just means all the people or organizations or even online groups that you can turn to for support or assistance. It can include healthcare and medical providers, family, friends and loved ones, and any other organizations you’re involved in such as your religion or faith community, hobby groups or friend groups, online groups you belong to, support groups, states and government assistance, community groups, etc.
Here are some tips for building your own community of care around yourself.
1. Start with a list of who is already supporting you and what they do for you. Are family, friends or neighbors already involved in your care situation? Healthcare and medical providers? Who else?
2. Look at that list see if there are gaps that need to be filled. What things do not have support or assistance for? Make a list of those. Maybe you need respite care for your loved one so you can have a break from caregiving. Maybe you need more education about how to live with your diabetes diagnosis. Maybe you need someone to mow the lawn or help with pet care. Maybe you just need someone to talk to when things get overwhelming or someone who can answer questions you have.
3. Start looking for ways to get those gaps filled. Call your local AAA or healthcare provider to ask about caregiver respite resources. Talk to your healthcare professional about diabetes classes. Maybe there’s a friend or neighbor who can mow your lawn or a neighbor kid who’d love to help walk your dog. Maybe there’s someone at church that you know has been through something similar and might be willing to be a listening ear for you.
4. Once you find some ideas for who to go to for filling those gaps, reach out and ask. Also be aware that often the people who tell you “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” really do mean it, but they don’t know what specifically you might need assistance with, so you need to give them something specific, like “I need to learn more about what to eat for diabetes” or “I need someone to sit with Dad for a couple hours a week so I can get out of the house.” Then they can tell if they really can help or maybe they can’t but they know of a person or resource you don’t.
5. Keep a list of contact information and who does what in an easy to reach place in your home, like on your kitchen counter, so that those in your community of care can reach out and know who to reach out to for specific things, if you need them to do that.
6. Express gratitude to those in your community of care and if there are ways you can help them out too, offer that to them too.
Heather Cox is a licensed Social Services Worker, Certified Dementia Specialist, Trainer, and RCI REACH Caregiver Coach with a B.S. in Psychology. She's been with AAA-Five County since 2013 and has worked in social services in southwest Utah since 2008.