- 06 September 2021
- 6 min read
The Challenge Of Integrating Care Into An Existing Support Network Of Relatives & FriendsSubscribe To Advice
In this piece, Alison Cooper talks us through the challenges faced by Carers trying to reconcile their job with the existing support networks of their client’s friends and families.
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One of the most challenging aspects of caring for the vulnerable is liaising with family, friends and other professionals who provide existing care.
This support network has known your client for many years and are caring for your client as best they can.
It is very difficult to propose an alternative care plan which will be more beneficial to your client, without making them feel like they are being replaced or the care they provide is not good enough.
It is a very difficult path to tread.
Spouses who care for partners, children who care for parents, siblings and close relations who have been with your client from the start of their illness, have a wealth of experience which is priceless when you take on a new client. But there is a reason you are there.
Somebody, for example Social Services, or the specialist in charge of your client’s care, has decided that additional help is needed, that the existing support network is inadequate and this is where problems can arise.
The Difficulty Of Letting Go
It is sometimes difficult for members of the existing support network to admit they can no longer provide adequate support.
They may feel like they have failed.
To help them through this, try asking for their help.
For example, ask them how your client likes to take their medications - with squash, with a cup of tea or buried in a sweet pudding?
If you make them feel like they are an integral part of the care plan, the transition will be much smoother.
Hopefully, in time, the existing support network will see that you can provide excellent care without their help, but this isn’t guaranteed.
It is often the case that the existing care providers cannot step back, and cannot hand over care to you.
What Do You Think?
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Trying To Do The Best By Your Client
Family members do not always have your client’s best interests at heart.
I’ve witnessed family members taking advantage of clients, and it’s hard to take.
I’ve seen children swindle their elders out of money and to watch it happen, and being powerless to stop it, is soul destroying.
If your client is suffering from a mental illness which impairs their thought process and no amount of advice from friends can help, it is impossible for a you, as a Carer, to intervene.
During the recent COVID crisis, I contacted the local authorities in the hope that I could stop a family member travelling to the UK from a high risk COVID country and walking straight into a household with two unvaccinated, vulnerable adults, both over the age of 70.
Again, there was absolutely nothing I could do.
The family member had their own property in London but refused to self-isolate and refused to acknowledge the danger they were exposing their family members to.
Fortunately both survived, but it could have easily gone another way.
I have been physically threatened during my caring career, not by a client but by a family member.
If you are ever in a situation where you feel threatened in any way, call for help. This is unacceptable.
Emotions run high when families break down and it is likely that your client was once the head of the household, the parent, the carer.
So when the tables are turned and the children become the Carers the new dynamic can cause difficulties.
Some children deal with the situation well, but many do not.
If an adult child is struggling in their own lives they are often not able to support their parent and the added stress of this new caring role is too much for them.
Live-in roles are difficult when there are other family members living in the same household.
It is understandable that having a stranger in the house is uncomfortable for the existing members, and it can also be difficult for you, moving into a stranger’s house.
The situation takes patience and understanding from all parties, but you should expect to be treated with respect and consideration.
It is unacceptable for the other members if the household have a ‘’seen but not heard’’ attitude, if your expertise or opinion is not appreciated and you do not feel valued and that your time and skills are wasted.
Personally, I like to work alone but with a support network close by.
I need to be able to make day-to-day decisions alone but be able to call on others if I need reassurance, or more information.
This may be too much pressure for you and you may prefer to share the care and responsibility.
Just as our clients are all different, so are we.
In an ideal world, the existing support network will welcome you and appreciate both the experience you bring and the skills you have.
The existing support system will know your client inside and out which is invaluable but as a qualified Carer, you bring additional expertise and knowledge to the care plan.
Working together, the overall effect is better, which ultimately benefits your client.