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Like any relationship, the caregiver and care recipient relationship can be complicated and messy. Both the caregiver and care recipient may feel a loss of freedom, sadness, frustration, anger, and isolation.  It is common for people to take their frustrations out on the people they are closest to. Pain and changes in physical and/or cognitive abilities can all, understandably, cause the person receiving care to act in ways that are uncharacteristic to them. Understanding this can help caregivers know these behaviors are usually not a personal attack on them. Exhaustion on the caregiver’s part may, at times, cause high emotions. Seeking out help can be healthy for both parties in the caregiver/care recipient relationship. This relationship is often referred to as a care partnership.

Seeking out help as well as ongoing communication can strengthen the care partnership. Since the one constant in a care partnership is change, ideally, many conversations should take place over a span of time. However, starting the conversation sooner rather than later is key. The following are conversation starters:

Questions for the Care Recipient: What is important to you? What does a good day look like to you? What is a bad day for you? How involved would you like your caregiver to be? What is most helpful to you? If your primary caregiver cannot help you, who else would you like to assist you? How are you going to maintain your sense of self? How can you stay connected to others besides your primary caregiver?

Questions for the Caregiver: What is important to you? What are you willing and able to do? What are your limitations? How are you going to fulfill your own obligations, while maintaining your sense of self and continue to connect to others who are important to you?

It is also important for both parties to have conversations about substitute decision making and advance planning, to let your wishes be known while you are able to make your own decisions. It is a gift to others to let your wishes be known. These wishes can always be changed at a later date if you change your mind.