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Communication, Caregiving, and families

Published by 4Hope on 2002/12/20 (2496 reads)
Communication, Caregiving and Families
Recorded at the KEOM studios on December 20, 2002

Q: What do you see as being the most difficult challenges that adult children face when their parents suddenly need help?

A: It seems that regardless of the number of adult siblings in a family, when an elderly parent needs either emergency care due to an accident or health problem, or ongoing care because of a chronic or debilitating disease, conflict or stress within the family system can be great. When there are many siblings, it is often difficult to reach a consensus within the family for the best way to care for Mom or Dad. Or, if there is strained relationships among the siblings, there may be one person who ends up shouldering all the responsibilities while the others in the family only help out when absolutely necessary - and maybe not even then! Oftentimes, a primary caregiver may feel that no matter what she or he does to help, it's never good enough for the parent or other family members. Although an only child would not have to deal with conflicting siblings, she or he may have to shoulder the responsibility of caregiving alone. Decisions about legal matters, property, financial concerns, and long term care can test the best relationships within a family.

Q: What would you suggest as some ways that caregivers might consider when experiencing conflict or other problems within the family?

A: First, I think it's important to keep the lines of communication open between family members. As soon as possible, especially for the primary caregiver in the family, ask for a meeting with the other members in the family to discuss ways to share the responsibilities, decide on what immediate needs will be addressed and how, and then be clear about what help you may need from them regarding decisions and hands-on care. Even for those people who live out-of-state, they can take care of some of the paperwork, contact local agencies for information, or make regular phone calls to your parent.

Secondly, try to keep your priorities in focus . . . it's important that the caregiver not seriously compromise her or his own health , job, or relationships within the immediate family when caring for a loved one.

Third, if you find that no matter how much you ask for help from family and keep getting excuses or flat refusals, you may need to accept the reality that these are not people from whom you will be getting help and seek other sources of support - friends, agencies, your church, or calla geriatric care manager for specific interventions related to your parent. It's important to tell your inactive family members what you need, how you feel and how they could help, but the responsibility is their's to respond. You may be dealing with feelings of resentment or anger, but you may be better off in the long to just let it go . . . perhaps check out a caregiver support group in your area or contact a counselor or clergyperson to help deal with these feelings and consider contacting a lawyer to be sure that you are legally protected in your choices for your parent.

Q: Where else can people get help if they become the primary - and solitary - caregiver?

A: See what resources are available in your community. For example, if your loved one has Alzheimer's disease, contact the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association for information and support. Contact a geriatric caregiver or social worker for more information about resources in your area. Check out some of the books about caregiving in your bookstore or library. An excellent book is How To Care for Aging Parents by Virginia Morris - some of the suggestions here are mentioned in this book. . . there are many other resources also available. Our website,, offers much information regarding caregiving and issues related to aging. Lastly, don't forget to ask friends for help . . . they oftentimes want to help but don't know what you really need. Help them by telling them what you need - maybe a neighbor can run a few errands, or a friend can pick up the kids from school, or someone can stay with your loved one while you get some time for yourself . . . and try to remember that you are probably doing the best that you can do right now and to take care or yourself while you are caring for your loved one!

Tags: caregiver   support   caregiving   family   strife   disagreement  

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