Siblings: Stop Fighting over Senior Care for Your Parents

Siblings: Stop Fighting over Senior Care for Your Parents

Does this family scenario sound familiar? An ever-helpful, younger sibling lives a short distance from her elderly parents and for quite a while now has been spending an increasing amount of time as caregiver for her mother and father. An older sister lives several states away and is for the most part a “non-participant” in her parents care — both physically and psychologically. The older sister often has feelings of guilt for being so removed from her family, but at the same time, neither her parents or her sister typically ask for any help. In the rare instances when the younger sister reaches out, it doesn’t take long for them to disagree on how a certain situation should be handled.

It can be difficult for families who have never gotten along to make decisions together, especially when there are multiple siblings with varying beliefs, caregiving styles, and personalities. A recent article in Forbes magazine, states that 61% of sibling caregivers feel they don’t get the support they need from their siblings. Watching our parents decline can make us more emotional, irrational, and volatile. And…there’s something else: it can often remind us that we’re next in line.

“When siblings squabble over who will care for mom or dad, or refuse to help one another with caregiving tasks, the problem often isn’t about the caregiving itself, but rather conflicts and power struggles that may have existed since childhood.”

What Siblings Disagree Over

Why the sibling strife? You name it!

Caregiving Arrangements
Live-in, live out, or family help? Should technology be utilized to remind parents to take their medications and alert you if they don’t? Who will dispense medications, interview caregivers, or oversee the whole process?

Disparities and Inequities

Is each sibling pulling his or her own weight (money, tasks, and/or time)? Is the hometown child, or daughter saddled with more responsibility and resentful of out-of-town siblings?

Family Possessions
Who gets what when a parent downsizes or moves or after a death?

Finances and Money
How should the money be spent? Will there be expenses over caregiving and who handles finances if mom or dad is no longer oversee things?

Independence and Safety
Who will think about asking the parent to give up those car keys if it becomes necessary? Who will ensure fall prevention, especially if the parent is living alone?

Living Arrangements
Should dad stay in the family home or is too isolating, unrealistic, or unsafe? If not, where should he go?

Medical Decisions
Who makes sensitive decisions when there are differences of opinion about the end of life or treatment?

Ways to Take Action to Avoid Conflict

To head off conflict down the road, it’s important, while the initial dialogue can be difficult, for siblings to try to have open conversation early on about their roles, even though their parents are still younger and/or healthier.

It’s quite typical for one sibling to handle emotional and lifestyle issues, while the other can be in charge of medical decisions. Financial decisions can go either way. Sometimes one sibling takes the lead for those concerns, while with other families, it’s a joint decision.

Use the following strategies if you’re trying to stop an ongoing struggle with siblings over senior care:

Be empathetic. Be understanding of your siblings’ circumstances, of your parents’, and of your own. It’s a stressful time for everyone.

Divvy up responsibilities according to each person’s strengths. Let them choose what they want to tackle, e.g. communicating with doctors, paying bills online, or researching housing options.

Don’t expect a miracle! If your sister was always selfish, she may not change. That doesn’t mean you can’t try to get her to pitch in.

Hold your tongue. How important is it if you and your brother don’t do everything the same way? Unless it’s a safety issue, button up!

Just ask! Have your parents participate in decision-making, or at least let them weigh in, if it’s realistic.

Keep everyone in the loop. There are now websites that let family members collect all the information in one place (from caregiving and medical to tasks that need to get done) and log in any time. Convene regular family conferences, preferably in person, or otherwise via conference calls, Facetime® or Skype®.

Spell out your needs. Maybe a sibling should know what you need, but maybe they have no clue. Perhaps they think you don’t want help.

Time Out! If an issue becomes contentious, take a break, calm yourself, then address the topic at another time. Apologize if it’s warranted.

Vent appropriately. Visit a caregiving forum or website, learn how others have handled tough situations. Call a friend. See a therapist or talk to clergy. Just know that there are professionals available to help families untangle issues relating to aging parents and help all parties make decisions.

How Does My Role as a Caregiver Change When My Loved One Moves to Assisted Living?

How Does My Role as a Caregiver Change  When My Loved One Moves to Assisted Living?

As an adult child who has possibly been involved in the primary care of a senior parent, your loved one’s move to an assisted living community will undoubtedly create a lifestyle change that not only affects your mother or father but you as well. You must now entrust the majority of their care to assisted living staff. The primary question most people placed in this scenario ask is, “will the facility provide the same level of care and love to my parent?”

Included in this article are tips on how you can avoid distance and distrust and take a more cooperative approach with your senior loved one’s assisted living staff.

Your assisted living staff will be better able to do their jobs if you and your parent bring them into the fold and treat them as active and welcome participants in your senior loved one’s care moving forward.

There are a number of reasons to take this approach:

In can increase your trust in the care your loved one is receiving.
It’s natural for family members to worry about the quality of care a senior will receive in a new assisted living community. The best way to put your fears to rest is to get to know the staff and regularly ask for updates.

It’s not uncommon for adult children to be worried that a move to assisted living can potentially have a negative impact on their loved one. More often than not, however, the exact opposite occurs. With days filled with various activities, a close watch on his/her medications, a proper and monitored diet, an assisted living environment typically allows individuals to thrive.

When you know your loved one is in good hands, you can let go of some of the stress and worry you feel about their care.

The assisted living staff will be a big part of you and your senior loved one’s lives.
For as long as your parent or senior loved one lives in assisted living, staff will become the main people in charge of helping them with activities of daily living (ADLs) like getting dressed and taking their medications.

They’ll also be some of the main social contacts your loved one has in between your visits and will become the familiar faces you see every time you’re there.

Your lives will be better if you stay on good terms with your loved one’s assisted living staff and make an effort to get to know them.

You have the knowledge they can use to provide more personalized care.
While you need assisted living staff to help with your senior loved one’s care, they also need you in order to do their jobs as well as possible. Taking the time to know one’s interest and life story has always been a key to helping carry out individualized care plans. Having open and frequent communications with family members and friends allows staff to get an inside look into the lives of our residents.

Your loved one’s care needs, personality, and preferences are all unique. The more you interact and openly communicate with assisted living staff, the better they’ll understand the person they’re taking care of and how to best treat them.

You need regular updates on anything that changes — and so do they.
As your parent or senior loved one ages, their needs inevitably change. You want to know sooner rather than later when that happens and you want to make sure that assisted living staff knows as well.

The best way for everyone involved in your loved one’s care to stay aware and on top of all changes is by keeping the lines of communication open. When you notice something different about their behavior when they’re home for a visit, make sure you let the staff know so they can make any needed changes to the care routine.

Also, regularly ask assisted living staff about any changes they notice so you can advise on how best to handle them and know to bring them up with the doctor if needed.

Ways to Create a Successful Senior Care Team

Knowing you should treat assisted living staff as part of the senior care team isn’t the same as actively doing so.

To successfully treat your loved one’s care as a team effort you can all contribute to, here are a few important tips:

Be respectful of them.
Working in an assisted living community is hard work. Be careful not to take out any of the difficult feelings you may have about your loved one’s condition on the staff. Communicate respectfully and always remember that you’re talking to people with an active interest in making sure your loved one stays as comfortable and healthy as possible.

Initiate regular contact.
Whether it’s through talking to them during frequent visits or making regular emails or phone calls, make sure you proactively communicate with assisted living staff. It gives you the chance to get to know them and shows them you’re interested in constant updates on your love one’s cares. Families should never be surprised about changes in their loved one’s condition. Regular communication keeps everyone in the loop and ensures you’re all on the same page about what your loved one needs and how to provide it.

Work together for better for better senior care.
As you already know, taking care of an aging senior is a lot of hard work, and it’s too often thankless work. You can make the lives of your loved one’s assisted care team easier and improve the quality of care your family member receives at the same time by actively embracing the people working with your loved one. Treat them like a part of the team and get to know them as human beings.

How to Handle Caregiver Guilt after Moving Parents into Senior Living

How to Handle Caregiver Guilt after Moving Parents into Senior Living

Family caregivers face a complicated mix of emotions while caring for parents and seniors loved ones —and the least useful of them all is guilt. In addition to taking away energy and time that you can’t afford, guilt can also keep you from making the best decision for your parents. In many instances, that decision involves handing a loved one’s care over to a skilled professional, rather than continuing to carry the full burden yourself.

For many caregivers, one of the biggest hurdles to making that decision is giving yourself permission to feel okay about it. Below is a list of reasons why moving parents into senior living may be best:

Assisted and senior living staff have a specific set of skills needed to care for your loved one.
Unless you’re a gerontologist or nurse by profession, you are not specifically trained in how best to care for an aging senior. The people who work in senior living know more about how to handle the various types of help seniors need than many loved ones do. While there are always ways you’ll know your parents better than a staff member, there are still skills they’re able to bring to the table that you don’t have.

If you’re not taking care of yourself, the care you provide will suffer.
Concern for your health isn’t just about you. If you’re sick or stressed out all the time, you’re not able to provide your loved ones with the level of care they need. To be there for your parents in the way they need, you need your health — both mental and physical.

Senior living communities can spread the care around so no one person is overwhelmed.
If you’ve been doing all the work of caregiving on your own, then by now you know well how unrealistic it is for one person to shoulder the entire burden. Balancing the responsibilities of your own life and being a full-time caregiver for your parents at the same time can be ultra-stressful. Senior living communities have a number of staff who work different shifts, so the work is spread around. That doesn’t mean they don’t still work very hard, but they’re able to keep the workload a little more manageable than one person trying to do everything.

Senior living communities provide more access to medical professionals.
Unless you’re a medical professional yourself, you won’t be as good at recognizing changes in your parents’ health or know how to address them as a licensed doctor or nurse will. Senior living communities typically have nurses on staff — meaning your parents will have regular access to someone with extensive medical knowledge.

Senior living communities provide resources and social activities one person can’t.
As seniors age, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay social and the lack of social opportunities can contribute to depression. While having you around is better than being isolated, one person can’t be someone’s whole social world. One of the big benefits that senior living communities provide is easy access to a larger social circle. Your parents can make new friends and easily see them every day, without the difficulty of traveling to meet them. Senior living communities also schedule regular activities, such as fitness classes, men’s and women’s book clubs, and cooking classes — all things that keep your parents active, without putting any more work on your plate.

Trying to do too much is bad for your health.
This is a very important point to acknowledge. Caregiving can take a real toll on your health. Trying to do too much work without enough rest can weaken your immune system and cause you to start facing more serious health issues. If caring for your parents requires helping move them in ways you find physically taxing, that can cause you injuries as well. What happens to you and your parents if you break a bone or pull a muscle trying to take care of them? You both suffer and they’re likely to end up in the care of professional anyway.

Ways to Minimize Your Feelings of Guilt

You may still struggle with guilt or feeling like a failure if you hand care over to someone else. It is a perfectly normal way to feel. There are, however, a few steps that you can take to help you work through those feelings:

Find the best possible senior living community.
Spend time researching senior living communities in your area so you get a feel for your options. Visit the ones that look like the best fit for your parents and spend time talking to the people that live and work there. If you know the home your parents move into has folks they’ll get along, as well as staff who are well-qualified to care for them, then you can move them there with more confidence you’re making the right decision.

Go to therapy.
If you still have lingering guilt that’s negatively affecting your life, consider finding a good therapist. Having someone you can talk to about your feelings will help you work through them. Trained therapists are also equipped with actionable strategies for dealing with guilt or other negative feelings.

Help them make their new residence their own.
An apartment in a senior living community will inevitably feel different than a home, but you can still find ways to make it more comfortable for your parents. Help them pick out decorations and family photographs or mementos that will make the space more theirs. Make it a project you do together. It gives you a way to spend time together during the transition and will have a lasting influence on their time in a senior living community.

Visit often.
Moving parents to senior living doesn’t mean you’ll stop seeing them all the time. You can visit as often as you want and you should! If the community is close to where you live, commit to coming by every week or more. If it’s a little further, commit to visits in person as often as you can manage and if possible utilize Skype or Face Time calls in the interim. Make sure your parents know the move won’t get in the way of your relationship with each other.

Taking care of parents is a big job and you simply might not be the best person for it. Finding the right senior living community to trust with the job will improve your and your parents’ lives.