3 Sep 2016
Caring for a parent can be challenging. I know this to be true from my own personal experience. Many issues arise that can fracture family relationships.
Perhaps one sibling has left the workforce to provide unpaid care. Or another sibling is geographically separated, limiting his/her ability to be involved. Maybe the parent needing care is unwilling to admit he needs help.
My parents were very private people and always told us they were well prepared to age at home. After a crisis happened, we found out they were not! When it came to helping, one of my siblings was geographically unavailable; another was emotionally unavailable. I became the primary caregiver by default, mostly because I was nearby. I had anticipated this for some time but that didn’t make it any easier.
Based on my own experience, here are some recommendations to help you chart a course for caring for a loved one.
1 Hold a family meeting before a crisis presents itself. Determine who will be coordinating any decisions that need to be made. Consider involving a social worker to bring balance, knowledge and experience to the conversation. These discussions can get messy.
2 Speak to your parent(s) now to make sure they have a Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney in place. And be sure you know where to locate these documents.
3 Once a plan is proposed, discuss whether there are adequate financial resources to fund that plan. Home care is costly and knowing your parents’ financial situation is a very important part of the process. Nothing can be decided without an overall financial picture.
4 If one sibling is the primary caregiver, will the other siblings remain involved and help with relief or respite care: perhaps by either stepping in for a time, hiring a paid caregiver, using an adult day program or a short-term stay at an assisted living residence? The family member providing care needs regular relief they can count on.
5 Siblings at a distance should understand that being the primary caregiver can take a significant toll, and they should try to support the caregiver in any way possible, be it financial or emotional. Showing appreciation and understanding can help ease the resentment that may develop. A long-distance sibling may be able to help by handling the bill paying, ordering groceries online or coming for scheduled visits.
6 All siblings need to be realistic about their parent’s condition and discuss expectations for care, in home or otherwise.
A well thought out plan, continuing open dialogue and support services can help turn a stressful situation into one that can be rewarding and loving.