Your caregiver journey is profoundly affected by the nature of the relationship you, your elderly loved ones, and other family members have with one another.
Not every family is proactive enough to sit down and have a heartfelt talk about what happens when mom or dad need extra help in the future, who’s going to do it, and what happens when you or other family members can’t provide the kind of care they need anymore?
In other words, advanced care planning isn’t really discussed let alone organized; leaving a lot of scrambling and guesswork to family members who may feel unprepared.
Without this kind of discussion – while your parents are still able to express their wishes – who decides who becomes the caregiver? The lion’s share of the responsibility typically falls to one family member, and is often whoever lives closest to mom or dad, but are they best suited to oversee the parents’ care? What if they have young children of their own? What if their job takes them out of town frequently? What if they have health issues of their own?
A lack of effective communication between family members can contribute significantly to the stress a caregiver may feel when they are not getting the practical and/or emotional support from within the family. The caregiver can then come to resent when other family members provide suggestions or criticize; feeling perhaps that those who don't take part in regular caregiving tasks are not seeing the whole picture.
These kinds of issues need to be talked about ahead of time, but this is where the long-established relationships among family members may make those conversations a challenge. Their (and your) expectations, belief systems, cultural and social influences will all come into play and add to everyone’s stress if there are conflicting beliefs as to how caregiving should take place, as well as create uncertainty as to how to resolve these matters.
On the flip side to this experience is the role changes that happen between a parent and their adult child caregiver. This can cause conflict if a parent is not ready to relinquish their independence and decision-making to their adult child. While as an adult child this new position of authority over your parent’s well-being may be quiet a stretch if unresolved issues from the past are not resolved or at least, set aside and the situation at hand is seen for what the present needs require.
The same sort of thing can happen when the caregiver is the spouse. It is a dramatic shift from being someone’s life partner to being their care partner and nurse; having to adapt to very different ways of relating to one another.
Resources to start the conversation
Your loved one’s GP is a good place to start in finding and referring you to the resources you may need.
A community caregiver support group helps with dealing with the emotional rollercoaster you’re most likely experiencing – in a safe space where you can share your thoughts, and not feel alone as everyone else there is also fluent in the language of caregiving.
A gerontologist, who specializes in helping with the healthcare needs of the elderly, will be an excellent resource who will guide you in finding the right kind of care to address your loved one’s specific issues.
A qualified counselor to speak with you one-on-one.
A family mediator is essential if the relationships within your family have become especially challenging as a result of your loved one becoming more frail and dependent. If the family is ill-prepared this can cause a lot of upheaval, and so a qualified, compassionate listener who is not caught up in the emotions of the family unit can help put things in perspective.
And don’t forget to call upon the help of friends or neighbours who have offered their assistance or support when you need it. Often, a get together with a friend for coffee and a chat gives you enough of a break and some breathing space to better see your situation.
© Nancy Glover | Aging With Grace www.AgingwithGrace.ca
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Nancy Glover, a healthy aging advocate, mentors extraordinary women and men who have stepped into the challenging role of caring for their elderly spouse or parent by managing their well-being in the later stages of life. Blending first-hand expertise with practical step by step systems to support the needs, goals, and desires of the elderly spouse or parent, Nancy helps caregivers maneuver the complex and often challenging role with supportive advocacy and resources that equally focus on everyone’s well-being. Learn more about her at www.agingwithgrace.ca and sign up to receive timely information and strategies to empower caregivers and families in transition.