Sharing Family Caregiving Duties To Optimize Your Parent's Care

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

By Clare Absher RN, BSN  

  Need help finding care?

Elderly woman looking over her shoulder at private caregiver

  Need help finding care?

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, or judgemental family members who avoid taking on any actual duties. Hopefully certain family members will emerge as leaders, while others may require your direction to accomplish their caregiving duties.

As a nurse, I have witnessed many families struggle with their roles while confronting the demands of family caregiving. The following advice is drawn from these 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.

Clare Absher RN BSN

About the Author

Clare Absher is a Registered Nurse with 44 years of experience. Most of her experience is in home health serving as a caregiver, educator, patient advocate, and liaison between families and community resources. She has also worked in acute care, assisted living, and retirement settings. She is passionate about helping families care for their elderly loved ones at home.

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