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Sharing Family Caregiving Duties To Optimize Your Parent's Care

By: Clare Absher RN, BSN

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Congratulations on your family caregiver position whether it be a volunteer undertaking or maybe a less enthusiastic acceptance. Caring for an elderly parent is a challenging task even for a professional caregiver. With that in mind, focus your efforts on getting the whole family involved so that the bulk of caregiving does not fall entirely on your shoulders. Some common obstacles you may run into are siblings / relatives who try to escape their responsibilities, as well as overly opinionated family members who avoid taking on any actual duties. Hopefully certain family members will emerge as leaders, while others may be willing to help but require specific direction. As a former home care nurse, I have witnessed countless families struggle with their roles while confronting the demands of family caregiving. The following advice is drawn from other families' experiences to offer some creditable and practical strategies.

1. Keep all the family members informed on a regular basis, regardless of their expressed interest level.

Schedule weekly or biweekly family meetings, phone calls and or email reports which are used consistently to update all your family on Mom or Dad's condition. It may seem like a lot of extra work but is necessary if all are to be involved.

2. Don't allow the long-distance family members off the hook.

Find jobs for them that do not require living nearby to their parents such as paying bills, record-keeping, and managing other legal and financial matters.

3. Determine very specific duties for each family member.

Take into account his or her strengths and weaknesses. Create a team effort approach through open family discussions to determine each member's assigned duties.

4. Make every effort from the beginning to get everyone involved.

Don't wait until you're on the brink of a nervous breakdown before seeking the assistance of others.

5. Designate one family member as the contact person.

This person will be responsible for communicating with doctors, home care nurses, and social workers and must be willing to share what they have learned with the rest of the family. In this way, the negative impact of repeated contacts with health team personnel can be avoided.

6. Encourage compliance by allowing choices of caregiving jobs.

Make sure that family members select tasks they are comfortable doing. For instance, many sons are reluctant to provide hands-on care of their mothers such as bathing, dressing, and so forth. Instead, ask him to manage yard-work, household maintenance, and taking your parents to medical appointments.