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Sharing the Responsibility of Caregiving

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The task of caring for aging parents usually falls on the shoulders of their children. Becoming a caregiver for a parent may not be something that we anticipated. But as our parent’s age they may need to rely on us for assistance with tasks they were once able to perform on their own.

Often caregiving starts out with everyday tasks like running to the grocery store or post office, going to doctor’s appointments, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, making sure bills are paid on time and balancing a check book. The time commitment required grows over time. What happens if you find yourself sandwiched between caring for your own children, managing a home, working, and now trying to provide care for an aging relative? The toll may be paid in stress, anger, frustration, and guilt. This can truly become a crisis.

It is not unusual for one of the children to be doing most of the caregiving while other siblings are continuing to live mostly uninterrupted lives. This can be unfair to the primary caregiver and upsetting to everyone. Family members need to get on the same page in terms sharing the caregiving burdens.

If you find yourself in this situation, examine what each family member is willing and able to contribute. Contributions can be physical or financial. Determine who is willing to contribute and in what ways. For example, some family members are absolutely not comfortable helping someone bathe and dress, but they would be very comfortable helping Mom manage finances, create a grocery list and shop for those groceries each week.

Try to understand what each person’s limitations are before assigning them a specific task. Perhaps one child lives near mom while another is long distance. Maybe the local child can check on mom daily and help her heat up dinner, tidy up the house, do some laundry and the long distance child can pay for a couple hours of care giving services through an agency to provide respite time for the local child.

Try to find ways to ensure that the line of communication between caregivers is open. Bad communication results in poor care and hard feelings. This is already a stressful time for families and many old feelings will probably surface as everyone tries to work together, so it is important to try to address issues and feelings and come to some kind of resolution.

If the family is unable to set aside their feelings, it may be helpful to seek help from a third party, such as a geriatric care manager. A care manager has experience dealing with complex situations and emotions and assisting families in sorting through their options to best meet their common goal of providing good care for a loved one. There are always plenty of options and each situation is unique.

If you are interested in learning about how you can get your other family members more involved in caring for your loved one, call me today so we can discuss the possibilities. Everyone (including caregivers) deserves the best care and the best quality of life and we are here to help people attain that.