Sharing Caregiving Requires the Whole Family
You may have noticed that there are an increasing number of families who are sharing caregiving responsibilities. This could be done by sharing households, traveling to the parents’ home, short-term visits with the parent at one’s home, or by sharing other responsibilities, such as meals, housework, transportation, etc.
This doesn’t happen without careful planning and forethought. Usually the caregiving duties fall on one person, a primary caregiver. That person is more often a female than a male. To be the only caregiver can be too big of a job, overwhelming the caregiver and causing them to develop health issues of their own and become unable to continue.
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Sharing caregiving is better for the caregiver and the parent according to WebMD.
I have always believed it’s better to get in front of the problem before a crises requires an immediate response. Better to be in control of your situation than your situation being in control of you.
Communication is key to sharing caregiving. Talk with your immediate family first. Getting everyone to admit the inevitable is a good place to start. It is not always easy to recognize when a loved one is beginning to struggle with their own care. Talking it over, even if no firm plan is agreed on, will at least be informative, and will give members time to consider how they can help. But the time will come when action is needed; don’t let it catch you by surprise. Be prepared as best you can.
Everyone has something to offer.
The primary caregiver needs to have a chance at a healthy lifestyle in a sane environment. That’s why sharing caregiving responsibilities may be necessary. In a best case scenario, a regular day-off is best. Having helpers available for doctor visits, shopping or other travel is also helpful. Pitching in with household chores or mowing the lawn is great. Anything and everything can help.
Siblings not involved with “hand-on” care can contribute in other ways. It could be paperwork or finance management, a prepared meal, or a contribution of needed funds or medical equipment. There’s always a need for a handyman for home modifications. Trust me – I’ve been a carpenter for 30+ years and I know.
Look at it this way. It’s the primary caregiver’s responsibility to care for the loved one. Someone needs to care for the caregiver.
It’s not always as easy as that.
Not all families will engage in sharing caregiving. There may be no members within driving distance. Or there may be some who are unable or unwilling to help. In that case, it’s time to seek help outside of the immediate family.
Home healthcare agencies are always a big help. There are community organizations that can provide help at low or no-cost. Services such as Meals-on-Wheels, adult daycare, and assistive transportation providers are helpful and available in many areas. There may be local churches providing senior activities during the daytime hours. There are organizations that provide assistance with estate-planning consultations and even needed wheelchair ramps. Call your area Agency on Aging or a social worker at a hospital to get a referral to social service organizations for the elderly, disabled, or chronically ill.
The Silver Lining
While sharing caregiving responsibilities, it’s important to remember the rewards of the situation. Many people find that caring for an aging parent is a growth experience, which creates an opening for both people to learn more about themselves and each other. Parents have a stronger emotional tie to their own children than to a healthcare worker or paid sitter. The parent will more likely have a better quality of life and in turn be a happier person. The siblings could develop new skills such as stress control, better communication, or an increase of patience that could benefit them beyond their years as caregivers.
I hope that you and your family will experience the blessing of sharing caregiving as my family has.