A few tips for caregivers!
Accept help and allow the entire family to share in the responsibility of your loved ones. I once overhead one brother say, “It’s just easier for me to do the food shopping then to wait for my sister to get around to it.” His sisters reply was, “When I offer help, he always says he has already taken care of everything.”
Allow the whole family the opportunities to give a hand in care-giving, even if it might require some flexibility in your schedule. Try not to brush off any offers of help. In one family I remember a very controlling brother who cared for his parents in his own home and wouldn’t accept his sisters offer of help on her day off from work due to feeling that this caused disruption in the routine.
Try not to subscribe to the notion that you are the only competent person in the family to manage care. For example one sister says, “She buys food that Dad is not supposed to have on his diet.” And the other sisters remarks, “Every time I try to help she just complains that I don’t do anything right.” Allow others to take on duties and show patience with their mistakes while learning.
Recognize that there usually is underlying reasons for the actions of the “all talk, no help” guy. He/She may feel guilty about not helping as much as he’d/she’d like but try to give him/her the benefit of the doubt with comments like, ” I know you wish you could come more often to see mom but she sure does light up whenever she gets the chance to see you.”
Encourage praise of all your family members regarding their efforts in care-giving and never “gang up” on one which will most likely cause alienation.
Try NOT to overlap family member’s visits if possible. Schedule in advance each family member’s visit in or to maximize the time for a regular caregiver to be off duty.
Alternate residences of siblings if at all feasible when parents can no longer remain at home. I have often seen brothers and sisters take turns having their parents stay with them for intervals of 1-2 months up to 6 months at a time and it seems to work very successfully.
Try to lean away from any type of dependency from either of your parents. Be careful to not, unknowingly, be put into the situation of being the only one who can properly take care of mom and dad. This can happen unrepentantly and be mistaken for a compliment initially but will eventually end with disastrous results later.
Be resistant to allowing a visit from an out-of-town family member that forces you to play the hostess role with things such as preparing meals and entertaining them. If you cannot use this time for your own well deserved resting time then at the very least make certain that this family member is not treated as company, but instead as another helping hand.
Consider hiring an elder law attorney and possibly a financial adviser to assist in managing the legal aspects of your parents affairs and relieves you from those responsibilities.
Consider hiring a GCM (Geriatric Care Manager) if you foresee the need for a neutral professional to oversee the care of your parents and assist with helping delegate care-giving responsibilities.
Also, Consider hiring a trustworthy agency to the provide a great home health aide to take care of your loved one at home and give you a much needed break. Some families I have worked with actually split the cost between them and makes this a very affordable option.
Try to always keep in mind the reason for the other family member’s care-giving efforts and that their help is purely for the love of their aging parents. Accommodating their needs and desires in order to bring their happiness is a very unselfish act that is too often overlooked.
As we say in Ireland, “Wishing you all Health and Wealth!”
Maria Burke, RN