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Caring for a loved one is an unpredictable experience. Caregivers regularly face contradicting emotions—those like hope and helplessness, gratitude and resentment, or love and loss—sometimes all on the same day. While this emotional rollercoaster is completely normal for those providing care, it can cause caregivers to feel isolated and misunderstood by those outside of it. This is why if you provide care to a loved one, you may benefit from a family consultation. In this article, we will explain what a family consultation is, why you may want one, and what to expect.

What is a Family Consultation?

A family consultation is a one on one meeting with an experienced professional caregiver or clinician. The purpose of the meeting is to provide support and resources specific to you and your situation. The consultants are professionals who have been in your shoes before who will listen to your experiences, answer your questions, offer you resources, potentially train you on tasks you’re unsure about, help you find peace and balance in care, and more.

Why Would You Want a Family Consultation?

Whether you are new to caregiving or experienced, a part-time provider or full-time provider, live near to the care recipient or far from the care recipient, you can benefit from a family consultation. 

The goal of the consultation is to understand your situation specifically and give you a professional outsider point of view. It can be incredibly enlightening to get a fresh set of experienced eyes on you and your loved one. There are also studies that show a link between family consultations and reduced admissions into a nursing home (though more research is needed).

A family consultant can help you see the parts of your life that could use rebalancing. They want to help you find time to allow for more self-care, remember the bigger picture of care, and help you refocus on yours and your loved one’s goals.

What Can You Expect at a Session?

The consultation may vary depending on where (or to whom) you go, but here are a few examples of things you may experience with your family consultation whether it takes place online or in person.

Part 1: Questions

In the beginning of the session, (or potentially before the session), your consultant will want to understand your situation as clearly as possible. To do so, your consultant, clinician, or representative will ask questions about topics like:

  • Your loved one’s diagnosis.
  • Their treatment plans and any other interventions.
  • How intensive your loved one’s needs are.
  • What a day in your life as a caregiver looks like.
  • What tasks you manage on behalf of your loved one.
  • How you are doing or feeling as a caregiver.
  • What support you have from other family members, if any.
  • Your family’s dynamics more generally.
  • What your biggest challenges are when providing care.
  • How confident you feel about the tasks you’re currently handling.
  • If you have any struggles or fears about the future.
  • How you’re balancing care with your other responsibilities like your job or children, for example.

Part 2: Support

Once they feel they have a grasp on what life is like for you and your loved one in the day-to-day norms of care, they will start offering support and suggestions to help. Here are some examples:

  • If you’ve cited that you struggle to get your loved one to all of their appointments on time, they may suggest resources or community support programs to help your loved one with transportation.
  • If your loved one has care needs that are technical or complicated, or you’re being asked to handle tasks you’re simply not comfortable with, they will offer support, training, resources, etc. to help address the gap in your confidence.
  • Let’s say your siblings are unwilling or unable to help because they live far away. Your consultant will offer suggestions of ways you can involve them in care from a distance to take some of the burden off of you. They can also help you navigate any difficult family conversations that you may have been avoiding up to this point.

These are just three examples of potential outcomes from a family consultation. Of course, the actual outcome from your session will depend on your situation. 

The benefit of a family consultation is that it is focused on you. The goal is to make your life as a caregiver more balanced, and your loved one’s life as a care recipient better.

Closing Thoughts

While caregiving is an experience shared by millions around the country, the reality of your experience will be unique to you. Getting an outside professional perspective can help you set or better achieve goals, find a better balance in your life, or connect with valuable resources that will make your life less stressful.

If you feel overwhelmed or like you could use a bit of support, CRC is here for you. Eleven nonprofit Caregiver Resource Centers (CRCs) throughout the state of California each year serve hundreds of families and caregivers of adults affected by chronic health conditions. Click here to find your local Center.

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