When you’re caring for your aging parents, you can use all the help your siblings have to offer. Your brothers and sisters can provide a tremendous amount of support, but there may also be challenging family dynamics to manage.
Learn how to lighten your load and draw your family closer together by sharing caregiving responsibilities with your siblings. Try these strategies for working together as a team.
1. Hold family meetings. Even if your family is spread out over long distances, try to gather in one place. Talking about how to care for your parents before an emergency arises allows you to approach the subject with a clearer head.
2. Assign roles. It’s easy to drift into old patterns. The child who was labeled the responsible one growing up may automatically assume much of the decision making. Instead, each of you can look at your current capabilities and contribute accordingly.
3. Consult professionals. Ask family physicians, pastors, and social workers to help you find the resources you need. Engage a geriatric care manager to coordinate the process.
4. Share information. Talk with your brothers and sisters about what you learn as you research issues about aging and caregiving. Give each other updates after you call or visit your parents.
5. Maintain records. You may need to deal with some complicated medical, financial, and legal arrangements. Proper documentation can prevent misunderstandings and help you comply with applicable laws.
6. Encourage independence. It’s important to remember that your mother and father want to maintain their independence for as long as possible. Look for ways to assist them that support their dignity. Installing safety bars around the shower is one adjustment that helps them to care for themselves.
7. Ask for help. Call on each other when you need a hand. Be tactful and specific. You can let your brothers and sisters know that you need them to cover part of a medical bill without trying to make anyone feel guilty.
1. Think about aging. Watching your parents grow older may trigger uncomfortable thoughts about aging and death. Join a support group or read spiritual material that can help you to understand your feelings.
2. Sort out rivalries. You may find yourself competing for your mother’s attention or reliving old memories about how your father took your brother camping without you. Decide to let go of past conflicts or talk them over with your siblings.
3. Respect differences. Each member of the family may have different opinions about the situation and unique ways of contributing. Accept that your sister may be more willing to pay for a gardener than to come over on weekends to do the yard work herself.
4. Establish realistic goals. It can be difficult to juggle caregiving on top of all your other responsibilities. If you’re becoming overwhelmed, concentrate on the essentials.
5. Express compassion. This can be a challenging time for the whole family. Be gentle with yourself and your siblings as you take on new tasks. Let your parents know how grateful you are for the love and guidance they’ve provided.
6. Take a break. Taking time off will help you to sustain your strength. Ask your parents if they’d like to take senior aerobics classes at the local gym so you can spend Saturday morning with your kids.
As the average lifespan increases, you may be able to enjoy your parents’ company for many more years than you expected. Advance planning and skillful communications will help you and your siblings to collaborate on caregiving to make this stage in your family’s life more joyful and meaningful.