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No “I” In “Team”: How Families Can Work Together To Care for Older Loved Ones

One of my mother’s favorite sayings still rings in my ears, “Many hands make light work.” Mom used it to get our family to work together on holiday preparations, Saturday housecleaning, and nightly dinner dishes. When Mom’s dementia progressed and her care needs increased, my sister and I were guided by her advice, but my brother…not so much! He was more of a spectator than an integral part of Mom’s caregiving team. It caused hard feelings that linger, years later. But our sisterly cooperation has created a deep bond and memories we’ll always cherish. How about you and your family? Are family caregiving challenges demanding more than one person can manage? Would you like to tap into your family’s resources and strength? Try some of these team-building strategies. You may not be able to recruit everyone, but you’ll be forever grateful to whoever joins your caregiving team.

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The Resilience-Building Power of Family Teamwork

Dr. Froma Walsh, an authority on family resilience, tells us that resilience is the ability to withstand and rebound from disruptive life challenges. Individuals who are resilient adapt to life’s demands by positively marshaling their beliefs, behaviors, and resources. Resilience is a vital source of strength, stamina, and growth for caregiving families. Check-out my two previous posts to learn about family resilience factors, how to marshal your family’s resources, and also how to help your family find the benefit embedded in stressful caregiving situations. Dr. Walsh teaches that families who are resilient handle adversity together, as a team. And throughout history, many otherwise people have understood the power of teamwork. 

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. ~Helen Keller

In sporting or business organizations, throughout society at-large or within specific families, positive things happen when people come together to achieve a common purpose. 

In union there is strength. ~Aesop

With teamwork, seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be overcome. 

We must all hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately. ~Benjamin Franklin

Teamwork isn’t easy; it takes time and energy to develop. 

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. ~Henry Ford

Sharing talent, ideas, and energy with a group compensates for individual limitations. 

I can do things you cannot; you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things. ~Mother Theresa

Relationships deepen and deep relationships create stronger teams. Teamwork is what the Green Bay Packers were all about. They didn’t do it for individual glory. They did it because they loved one another. ~Vince Lombardi

In the best of circumstances, it’s difficult to create teamwork, but it can seem impossible when someone you love is desperately ill or dying, and you have to go to work, raise children and run a household at the same time! But times of caregiving are when you need family collaboration the most. If you and your family need to work together on family caregiving, here are four strategies that could help.

Build Family Resilience by Working as a Team

  1. Set up an efficient, easy-to-use communication system.

Teams that are successful communicate well. Caregiving families need to work together, but many members live far apart, making in-person gatherings difficult or impossible. Phone calls are good, but when you want to reach many people at once, going online can save time and energy. One way to simplify communication is to use a site like Lotsa Helping Hands. It provides a free, secure group calendar for organizing helpers to provide meals, rides, and other necessary tasks. It includes message boards for keeping a caregiver’s network informed, and for sharing words of support or photos. Check-out this 30-second description or a 5-minute introduction.

  1. Reach out to others when you need help.

Like any team sport, family caregiving is not meant to be done alone. It’s too big a job for one person. Though asking others to lend a hand may be uncomfortable for you, it’s the best thing to do when you need help. Use this four-step process to tap your team’s resources and give others the opportunity to contribute:

  1. Figure out what kind of help is needed.
  2. Ask for it: clearly, directly, and respectfully.
  3. Gratefully accept what others offer.
  4. Find outside helpers, if you can.
  1. Hold family meetings.

Discussing medical, financial, and personal issues is an important way to ease the family caregiving journey. Unfortunately, family dynamics can make these conversations difficult. Siblings who need to be “the boss” or “the expert;” a parent’s preference for “keeping the peace” or avoiding taboo topics; and a partner’s tendency to be argumentative or pessimistic are just a few things that can derail conversations and destroy family teamwork. For guidance on how to call and run family meetings, check out this link:

  1. Become a Share the Caregroup.

The range of tasks and responsibilities caregivers handle is often overwhelming. Simply asking for help may not be enough. There is a way to build a powerful caregiving team that shares the challenges of family caregiving. It’s called Share the Care. Share the Care is a practical model for creating and maintaining caregiving groups over time. Back in the 1990’s Sheila Warnock and Cappy Capossela formed a “family” group with ten other people to help their terminally ill friend, Susan. Not blood relatives, they called themselves “Susan’s Funny Family” and stayed together caring for her for three and a half years. After Susan’s death, the group realized the profound impact of their experience. The family caregiving system that guided them led to Share the Care, a book, and now a non-profit business that teaches families, friends, and faith communities all over the world how to successfully replicate their blueprint for providing care as a group. Find information on how to form and maintain a Share the Care group visit: and

Team Building Strategies for Resilient Caregivers

Joining with others in a positive way is critical, but it can also be difficult to do. Physical distance, busy schedules, and family history; fatigue, anxiety, and anger are just a few things that block caregivers from connecting with others. Don’t let barriers like these keep you from receiving resilience-building support.

Use these family team-building strategies to boost your resilience and preserve your capacity to care. Whatever you do to connect with others will be good for you, your family, and those in your care. As you do so much for others, remember to take good care of yourself, too.