The discussion can resemble a soap opera: filled with love, guilt, anger, jealousy, and a sense of betrayal with some drama mixed in. And when adult children discuss whether Mom and Dad need a caregiver, they may not even agree that one is needed.
So how do you, as a loving family member who only wants the best for your parents, work through all the emotions and conflicts?
What’s the Priority?
The first priority must be to determine just that – what is best for your parents. That might seem obvious, but it can get lost in a clash of personalities. So how does a family with diverse and sometimes passionate opinions come to a workable consensus?
First (and always), communicate.
Talk About Caregiving for Your Senior Parents
Typically, the family member who visits Mom and Dad most often becomes aware of the decline in his or her parents’ physical and/or cognitive abilities first.
That person should find an opportunity to gather as much of the family together as possible, whether in person or by phone conference, and discuss their observations.
Because caring for senior adults can be a complex and emotional task, consider involving a senior care manager to serve as a consultant. These professionals are experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to senior care. They will be able to recommend resources and even help assist with personal issues between family members.
Discuss Options for Caregiving
The discussion should include available options. One option — involving the parents’ physician to determine current and future levels of disability and the care that will be required. Will caregiving soon require more time and expertise than family members can provide? Can the home be made safe for parents aging in place, or is a long-term care community probably needed? As difficult as it may be, the options have to be faced openly and honesty.
Determine Caregiver Roles
If the parents are going to remain in their home, the discussion should also include the roles and responsibilities of family members. For example, who will take on the role of primary caregiver? Will it be a family member or a team of professional health care providers, or some combination of both?
Each family member has different levels of access to the parents, differing skills, and family situations of their own. Perhaps one member could handle finances, another could oversee inter-family communications, and a third member (especially one with medical training) could supervise medications, treatments, and doctor visits.
To confirm what is discussed for future reference, the main points of agreement and disagreement should be written down and approved by all. If everyone understands where they stand, no one should feel betrayed.
This family conference is not a one-time occurrence. Regular discussions should be held. New challenges will arrive and conditions change for the parents and the caregivers. Also, any second thoughts, grievances, disagreements, or questions should be expressed without animosity.
Unless your family is the exception to the rule, there will be conflicts. To resolve them will require refocusing, reexamining, and renewing relationships.
Refocus by returning to the top priority of doing what is best for Mom and Dad. Also, keep in mind that your parents will have opinions on this topic as well, and may try to persuade family members to do things that are not in their best interests short- and long-term.
Reexamine what is happening. Ask yourself if your dissatisfaction has less to do with the quality of care your parents are receiving and more about personal conflicts with family members that go back many years. How important are the care issues that upset you? There are some things you may need to let go of in order to stay on track.
Renew your own commitment to what you have agreed to do. It’s easy to get caught up in your responsibilities to your own family, work, and other plans. Trust is built between people when they see each other holding up their end of the bargain. If you need to cut back on your commitment, let your family know. Just don’t let things slide.
As a family member, you have the right and responsibility to voice your opinion about your parents’ care even if you are not the primary caregiver.
One of the biggest points of contention is money. How much of it is being spent and on what? Is it being spent inefficiently or even taken fraudulently by the primary caregiver? A mediator can look into finances, as well as how the family should divide up expenses not covered by insurance. Receipts should be kept, and funds can be monitored by someone other than the primary caregiver. If there is deliberate wrongdoing, you may need to take the issue to court.
However, keep in mind being a primary caregiver is a difficult role. At any given time, they may be managing medications, preparing meals, performing housework, assisting with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, providing transportation to physician appointments, grocery shopping, handling wound care, managing incontinence, addressing cognitive problems, and dealing with finances.
If you have never been in the role of primary caregiver for a senior loved one, you may not understand how challenging it can be. If you really want to find out, take over the role for a few days, or spend time in your parents’ home along with the primary caregiver. The experience may make you more accepting on a number of issues.
At Bethesda, our Care Management service is designed to ensure that your senior loved one gets the right level of care, even as their needs progress. Contact us to learn more about our Care Management program and if a customized senior care plan could benefit your senior loved one.