Caring for Mom and Dad is a Family Affair ©
By: Clare Absher RN, BSN
Caring for your Mom or Dad can be challenging enough, but enlisting the help of all your family members might prove to be equally as difficult. Many families quickly find that the bulk of care-giving duties fall on the shoulders of one or two of the siblings. The other brothers and sisters somehow manage to avoid sharing in the care-giving responsibilities for countless reasons. Compounding the problem still further is contending with an annoying family member who shows up from time to time full of opinions and advice, but shies away from taking on any actual duties. Some siblings will rise to the occasion emerging as the leaders, while others are willing to help but require specific directions in order to be productive. During two decades of home nursing, I have observed families rely on many different methods of adapting to their new roles and relationships when faced with caring for their parents. Summarizing some general "Dos and Don'ts" drawn from other families' experiences might help you grasp the magnitude of the family affair concept when it comes to caring for your own parents.
Do 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.
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.
Do determine very specific duties for each member in the family taking in to account his or her strengths and weaknesses. Create a team effort approach through open family discussions to determine each member's assigned duties.
Don't wait until you become buried under and beyond help before seeking the assistance of others. Make every effort from the beginning to get everyone involved.
Do designate one family member as the contact person for communicating with doctors, home care nurses, social workers who is willing to share information learned with others. In this way the negative impact of repeated contacts with health team personnel can be avoided.
Do encourage compliance by allowing choices of care-giving jobs that each is more comfortable doing. For instance, many sons are uncomfortable with hands-on type care of their mothers such as bathing, dressing and so forth. Instead ask him to manage yard-work, household maintenance, and maybe Mom's medical appointments.