Some caregivers may find themselves suddenly thrust into the role of part-time or full-time care. It can be overwhelming and stressful, especially while trying to balance their work, social and emotional well-being.
Many adult children are in this situation, taking on responsibilities for caring for an aging parent out of a sense of loyalty or discipline. They often assume that role of the primary caregiver while trying to work full-time and also care for themselves in the best ways they can. It’s not until they realize all the resources available to them – especially family members and friends – do they begin to feel less alone in their role.
This is why it’s so important to have these conversations as early as possible with your fellow family members. Who has the time and space to provide? What’s a backup plan and realistic commitment for each person to make? Sometimes temporary solutions have a way of becoming permanent, so it’s best to have a plan in place.
“It’s an unfortunate fact that some siblings don’t want to care about their parents,” said Andy LaPointe, retired registered investment and mutual fund wholesaler, who’s currently caring for his aging parents. “They are more than willing to let the other siblings do all of the work.”
LaPointe broke down a few suggestions on how to begin having these conversations if you’re the one who’s been stuck with all of the responsibility.
1. Call a family meeting
First, you can’t assume everyone is aware of the circumstances. If you haven’t done so, call a family meeting to discuss the facts around your parent’s health and needs.
If you’re already the primary caregiver, you may have a better idea of the situation. Try to come prepared with evidence. Consider listing out duties that need to be done if your siblings aren’t aware of them.
2. Decide on what exactly help means
Break down who’s going to do what and when. Discuss your own limits and where you need help. It may be helpful to prepare a schedule of what all needs to be done and what holes need to be filled.
See what everyone can commit to and how they can help. If there are gaps in care, it may be time to discuss other options if everyone can’t agree to provide the complete level of care needed.
3. Keep communication open
Some siblings may be out of town or less aware of the circumstances. Try to send a simple text to let family members know how your loved ones are doing and about any developments that may happen. This can help prepare siblings with less access for a big change later on. Often, caregivers aren’t surprised by sudden downturns, but caregivers with full access may be more privy to the ups and downs of chronic health conditions.
4. Plan for the worst
Discuss what happens when the fateful day arrives when your aging loved one is no longer with you. Don’t wait until you’re already grieving to make plans. Distribution of assets and funeral plans are expensive and upsetting topics. But according to LaPointe, “Open communication is key.”
The topic may be taboo, but waiting until emotions are high can cost extra money and cause added stress. Try to make a plan now to save additional heartbreak later.
Look into your resources
Make sure you’re aware of everything that’s available to you. Some Medicare and Medicaid patients may qualify for a home health aide visit or for reimbursement of home health services. Check your plan to see if you qualify. These home health aides can help take the burden off the primary caregiver or recoup loss of income due to caregiving duties. While many people are unaware of this benefit, this resource can make a huge difference in the well-being of both the older adult and the caregiver, especially if you’re trying to work full-time.
The aides check on a senior at certain times per week, determined by need and coverage, and they can fill in gaps of care for semi-independent seniors or serve to relieve a primary caregiver for a few hours.
The caregivers aren’t typically registered nurses, but they can assist with day-to-day needs. Alternatively, family members can register as a caregiver to receive income for some of the time they’re helping a loved one. This is especially helpful if they had to quit a job in order to give care.
Continuing the conversation
Creating or making plans doesn’t mean anything is set in stone. Try to remember to reach out if you begin feeling overwhelmed, and keep everyone up-to-date if symptoms or situations suddenly worsen. Also, remember nothing is set in stone: If you need to talk again to negotiate care roles again or make a new plan due to changes in health, you can.
Caregiving can be stressful and burdensome for those who take it on. Try to lessen that burden by seeking help, especially from those around you.