Caring for a loved one can be too big of a job for one person. Trying to do everything yourself may lead to burnout and problems with your own physical and mental health. Instead, reach out to form a larger network of friends, family and community resources that can assume responsibilities for part of your parent’s care. Your parents can help you identify willing members that you may not have thought about, such as neighbors or friends from your parent’s faith community.
Look for team members. Team members need not all live nearby or have huge blocks of time to be of value. Long-distance family or friends with limited schedules can pitch in behind the scenes with meal organizing, bill paying or financial assistance. The computer whiz in the family could set up an electronic calendar for dinner delivery or chores. You may feel hesitant to ask others for help, but some people may need only a little encouragement to take on a task — and they may feel left out otherwise.
If there are grandchildren, consider including them in the caregiving plan. From keeping their grandparents company to mowing their lawn, kids of all ages can provide emotional and practical support if the situation is right. It might be a good way for them to feel they are contributing, not to mention their help may teach them beneficial lessons in patience and caring from the experience. Involving the kids also reduces your struggle between caring for your parents or them since you are all working together.
Manage sibling issues. At this stage, you and your siblings need to pull together to provide care for your parents. The reality is that relationships between parents and children have deep histories and some are healthier than others. The oldest sibling may take charge, yet the younger ones may be more in tune with what the parents want. Others may check out, triggering resentment among the willing siblings. As you sort through the responsibilities, tensions can run high. It may help to have a neutral third party present, such as a counselor or faith leader. Regardless of your family dynamics, it’s best not to assume beforehand that all your siblings will agree on what should happen. Opening up the lines of communication early, before a crisis happens, can minimize some of the family tensions. Include your parents in on these discussions and let their wishes be your guide and the center of decision making.
Build and support your team. Putting a supportive team together that is deep and wide can strengthen both you and your parent’s ability to deal with any issues that emerge. It will also help assure that as team members’ ability to help out changes; you will still have support from the larger group.
Watch these honest stories of three different caregivers.
Finding it difficult to reach out for support? Post a social e-card with how you’re feeling today.
Have you and your loved ones discussed potential caregiving needs? Try these conversation starters with your loved ones.
Printed from Oprah.com on Friday, March 14, 2014
© 2014 Harpo Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.