With the aging population today, more and more parents end up needing help from their children as they get older. This switch from the earlier life roles can be difficult for both parties. It can also lead to conflict between siblings, as they may have differing opinions on what would be best, or they may not all carry the same share of the load. If you are in a situation where you need to provide care for an aging parent, here are some tips.
Begin discussions as early as possible:
It is easiest to have conversations about their eventual needs for care with your parents before they are in that situation. Once there is a crisis, then everyone's emotions can make the subject more difficult, as will the need to do something in a hurry. It is also easier to broach the subject with your siblings before the need is immediate. People are more open to a calm conversation about caregiving when they don't feel that it is an urgent demand being placed on them.
Reach out to your siblings:
It's quite common that siblings do not share the load for parental caregiving equally, but that does not mean that you shouldn't try to involve them. Rather than boldly taking on all of the job yourself, and feeling like a martyr for doing so, reach out to your brothers and sisters, and see if you can enlist their help in some way. You might find that some of them are happy to help, but just didn't know what they could do to be useful.
There are different ways to provide support:
If you live in the same town as your parents, while your siblings are more distant, it may naturally fall to you to take on a greater part of the responsibility for caregiving. However, just because your siblings aren't around to do things like help with house cleaning or grocery shopping, doesn't mean that they can't provide some assistance in their own way. Perhaps one sibling can take care of getting your parents' finances and paperwork in order. Another might offer to send money to help cover the costs of outside assistance.
How to get more than one sibling involved:
Some of your siblings may not want to get involved in taking care of older relatives. It's really important to persuade them and make them change their mind. Otherwise, the relationship between you and them will fall apart, not to mention that taking care of an aging parent on your own can be devastating. Talk to them and try to reach an agreement. Share tasks and responsibilities, remember the good times, and do everything you can to put some sense into them.
Understand the financial situation:
If your parents are still capable of managing their own finances, have a straightforward conversation with them to get a feel for what their situation is. If your parents are starting to lose the capacity to take care of bills and managing money for themselves, you may need to get added for signature authority on their bank account, or start handling things like bills and taxes for them. You need to have an understanding of their financial situation so that if major expenses come up like medical bills or long term care, you know how these things can be handled. If you end up paying for your parent's care, talk to your own financial advisor, and see if you have options such as claiming them as dependents on your own tax return.
When aging parents need care-giving, their children should want to get involved. Home health aides, occupational and physical therapists, and nurses are professionals that can help you learn basic caregiving techniques. However, when only 1 sibling of 5 is willing to help, the whole process becomes a lot more challenging. You can't do everything alone because the chores involved will be detrimental to your personal life. Ask for assistance from terminal care professionals; they will help you go through the process and they may even persuade more siblings to get involved. Children should want to be with their aging parents in the last moment of their lives.
(this article by Edward Francis and Foresthc.com originally appeared on the Caregiving Partnership blog.)
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
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