Tuesday, 30 May 2017

SHARING ELDERCARE WITH SIBLINGS

It is my pleasure to host this guest post by Hanna Landman. Sharing eldercare with siblings is a subject that's especially close to my heart because I share care for my Mom with my sister (who shoulders most of the care because she lives in the same city as our Mom). Luckily, my sister and I work together really well to each do what we can. Here are some great strategies to share care fairly! 

When a parent starts aging and their health starts declining, the ones closest will often feel the responsibility to shoulder the daily chores of caregiving. When there is a spouse who is capable of this full time job, the task will fall on them. However, in lots of cases, it becomes the responsibly of the children.
As children, taking on such a responsibility is really a privilege. After all, our parents care for us for so many years. From the early stages of pregnancy and throughout our childhood and young adult years, they’re always there, nurturing, feeding, bathing, teaching, and playing. They show us an outpouring of love, undivided attention, care and concern every day and every night for years on end. Never relaxing, never taking time off from the most precious job in the world, the job of being a parent. And then, after all those years of the undiluted love and upbringing, the tables turn and the very people who took care of us who now need us to care for them.
And yet, despite it being a privilege, it is also a tremendous challenge. It’s an emotional roller-coaster just coming to terms with the new reality and it can be very painful to see your parents suffer and become so dependent on others. Juggling your parent’s needs with your other responsibilities, such as your job, your own family and more, is another issue that can leave a child caregiver physically and emotionally exhausted.
Above these difficulties, there is another point which begs to be discussed – the challenge of sharing the caregiving burden with others.
Ellie W. from New Jersey is one of six children, four of whom live in the same city as her elderly mom.
“We are all grownups and have families on our own,” shares Ellie, “but we just can’t seem to agree on almost anything when it comes to our mother’s care. Every time there is a problem that needs a decision, there are six different opinions on what should be done.”
What are some ways to address this challenge? Ellie and other caregivers like her recommend the following concepts that get them through the challenge and keep everyone happy: 

1. Communication

Talk and listen. Have every one of the siblings sit down together with your parents and go through all the possible options of care that is needed. You may choose to have a nurse or aid with some experience in the field guide you through this.
“No one child should make any decisions themselves,” advises Howard P., who shares the caregiving task for his dad with three sisters, “without first getting the consent and input from everyone. This creates an open line of communication where no one feels left out or ignored. Another positive aspect of doing so is that it encourages everyone to share equally in the responsibility.”

2. Delegating Tasks

Each sibling should be given a clear directive of what their responsibility is. There are so many different jobs and tasks that have to get done. The siblings who live in town should share the day-to-day responsibilities of visiting and/or checking on the elderly parent regularly, getting things done around the house (such as housework, paperwork, gardening, etc.), bringing in the mail, doing the shopping and bringing the parent to appointments. The siblings who live out of town may want to get involved by sharing some of the financial responsibility.
“One of my siblings who lives out of town,” says Ellie, “can’t take on any financial responsibility, but she wants to be involved, so she took on herself to come in every few months for a week or two and take over so that those of us who are involved all the time can take a short break. We all really appreciate that she does that, and hope that she continues to stick with it – everyone’s gotta have a break sometimes!”

3. Focus on your Parent’s Needs

Try to remember that your parent’s needs take precedence over your own when you are dealing with their care. It’s easy to lose yourself in your own emotions and get worked up about your siblings’ decisions, participation, lack of participation or anything else they do or don’t do.
Always take care not to decide to do something simply because it’s best for you, but rather do whatever is best for your parents, even if it’s hard and inconvenient.
Leah H., who cares for her aging parents together with two other siblings, says, “My job is to put their feelings before mine. This isn’t about me; it’s about my parents and their needs. Of course there are many times when I can find a way to make us all happy – but when I can’t, my goal is to at least make my parents happy. I find that this approach really helps keep the peace between us siblings – after all, there is no reason to argue: it’s not about you or me; it’s about what our parents need. It’s a great peace-making tactic!”
* * *
To all the dedicated caregivers out there - never forget that your parents did everything for you out of pure love – now is your time to return the love to them. Try to remember all the sleepless nights your mom and dad had while they were caring for you. Remember all the good times you had with them. Remember how they always they gave you everything so that you could be where you are today. At times, caregiving can be very taxing, but never forget, taking care of a child was just as hard, and they did it for you. Caregiving for your parent is your opportunity to give back – and when viewed that way, it isn’t nearly as hard to do.
Good luck!

*Some names may have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

About the author: Hanna Landman lives in New Jersey with her husband and child. She writes for AvaCare Medical, an online medical supply store servicing seniors and the homebound across the US. You can see some of her published work about senior care and more here.

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