A thought occurred to me as I was driving somewhere and accidentally got stuck in the long line of cars with people waiting to drop off their kids at school. Everyone was so orderly, you could tell this was the routine. As I finally realized I was not heading any closer to the stop light ahead (duh!), shaking my head at my mistake, I pulled out of the line. Suddenly I was recalling my days being carted to and from after-school programs, rainy school days, youth group weekends a few towns away, friend’s parties… all done with great efficiency by organized carpools. As a child, I had multiple moms and dads and a variety of sedans, station wagons, and vans at my disposal.

There were about fifteen families within a six-block radius that had kids all doing similar things. My mother, as she told me so very often, “HATED carpool duty”. What she loved was the freedom it gave her to not have to drive me and my two siblings in all directions, all the time. What did she do with that extra time? I think she napped.

The thought occurs to me that we should employ this carpool collaborative effort in our caregiving responsibilities. Why not? What do you think? Could you get some extra time for yourself to, I don’t know, wash your hair? Go for a walk? See a movie? Grab a coffee/tea/cocktail with a friend?

I was doing a presentation this past week to a group of fabulous women in a housing community in South Carolina and they loved this idea. I spoke to the ladies at their clubhouse about the challenges of caregiving and how to get more time for themselves, to avoid isolating themselves. They don’t want to be a bother. But if you can share duties with someone in the same situation, you’re both benefiting, right?

This conversation began when I brought up the importance of populating your “village” and creating a solid care team. In the room was a woman caring for her husband with dementia, several people at the beginning of caring for aging parents or in-laws, some with parents already in some form of assisted living, some who had already lost someone but expected that maybe they soon would need care themselves, and one caring for an adult child with a disability, We had a vibrant conversation about how important it is to take breaks and ask for help. “Stop trying to be a superhero,” I warned them. Sixty-five percent of caregivers wind up needing care or passing away before the people they care for because of caregiving stress and exertion combined with self-neglect.

The martyr complex comes from not wanting to be a burden, expecting that it is your duty and job to handle this stoically, protecting your kids from your overwhelm so as not to add to their responsibilities, and a hundred other reasons. Believing that only your way is the right way can also cause others to run from offering help or have you isolated because “I might as well do it myself or it won’t be done right!” This is all self-destructive thinking and not any good for the caree(s) [person(s) you are caring for/about]! If you get sick or poop out, how does that help the situation? Wouldn’t you rather be hosting carpool karaoke?

So what am I talking about? How do we carpool caregiving? This is what #CAREPOOLing might look like:

Day Care: Find an adult day-care program in your community and then find other people with carees who might also enjoy this. One of you takes both carees to the daycare, the other picks up at the end of the day. This frees you from commuting and gives you time to do what you like, get business done, or complete tasks on your never-ending to-do list, while your loved one is in daycare. Activities at daycare provide social stimulation thus keeping cognitive decline at bay and raising endorphins released while they’re having fun with others; gets everyone in a better mood!

Recreation/Entertainment: If your caree spends the afternoon watching game shows, classic television shows, or movies, and someone else near you has the same situation in his/her home, why not create a “play date”? Two people capable of watching television as individuals can be supervised by one person. Maybe some help to the bathroom might be needed. Perhaps some snacks should be distributed. But one of you gets a break and then you reverse and the next week, you watch both adults while your friend has a break. [Caution: make sure that the individuals are capable of sitting on their own. Maybe they fall asleep, maybe they’re in wheelchairs. Don’t do this with people who need consistent watching and are in danger if they are left alone.

Taking elders to the movie theater or a museum or lovely gardens is another way to share duties. Playing cards or board games, working on collages, needlework, or art projects, listening to music or books on tape, could be other activities to carepool. 

Appointments: If two carees have appointments at the same place (e.g.; physical therapy, blood draw, hair cuts, manicures, support groups, etc.), maybe schedule them at the same time so one of you drives them both there and the other picks them both up or one goes and stays with them this time, the other goes and stays with them next time.

Meal prep: Could you and your caregiving friend split cooking duties? You cook this week and I’ll cook next week – but we make enough for each other so one of us gets time off from cooking? Or perhaps one of you spends Sunday cooking enough for the week and packing healthy snacks into individual baggies; the next week the other spends Sunday prepping foods for the week.

Groceries/Errands: Take this another step further and when one shops for groceries, they can pick up the items for two lists, and the next shopping trip, you switch. Consider the same for picking up prescriptions, supplies, pet care, gift shopping, lawn care, etc.

I  think you get the gist here. Make your list of everything you do and everywhere you go and then reach out to your community, local organizations, friends, and family. Creating opportunities to “carepool” your care duties can reduce your stress and lessen the overwhelm. In the process, you’ll recognize that you are not alone and might find someone with whom you can share stories, commiserate when down, and celebrate when uplifted.

Please share your carepooling stories with me in the comments or directly to fern@illberightthere.com. I’d love to share them in this blog to inspire others.

#carepool #illberightthere #whencanwetalk #carpooling care