“There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”
— Rosalynn Carter
Everyone is touched by caregiving
No matter what kind of caregiving you are involved with, it is inevitable that those around you are affected. It could be that you don’t have time to visit with friends the way you used to, family vacations have been put on hold, interests and hobbies you once had are now a thing of the past. You may be so mired in caregiving that it is hard to see how relationships around you are changing.
a large family handles caregiving without breaking apart
I would like to share how a friend, Pat, along with her family, handle the demands of caregiving. Including Pat, there are six siblings who are in their 50’s and 60’s, and all live within an hour of each other. One of the brothers has special needs. Mom, who has spent her entire life caring for her husband and large brood of children, now finds herself alone with no one to care for and needing care herself. In addition to Pat’s mother and brother, there is also an aunt who is in need of care. She is in her mid 90’s, never married, and was fiercely independent her entire life. All three of these family members need some degree of care or supervision.
Pat’s aunt and brother moved into assisted living apartments while Mom moved in with one of Pat’s siblings. As can happen in any family when someone needs caregiving, in this case three people, the mental, physical, and financial strain can take a toll.
According To Forbes Magazine, “Of all the difficulties family caregivers face, one of the biggest sources of stress is trying to be on the same page with our siblings”.
Look to everyone to help where they can
Pat’s family has navigated the needs of their three family members in an admirable way. They have handled the ups and downs of caregiving by having regular family meetings. When one of the three family members has a need for a change in level of care, if there is a change in medical condition or any other issues come up that could cause stress within the family, they meet.
The closeness within the family makes it easier to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This means, they understand how much time is reasonable to expect from one another, and know what obligations are tugging at each other, such as jobs, children, etc. This path has been difficult for all of them in different ways. As a family they have figure out how to discuss what needs to be done, argue it out if necessary, and ultimately agree on a plan that has the best interest of the family members they care for in mind. This plan more times than not has involved compromise.
agreement and compromise
Here is an example of something discussed at a recent meeting. Mom understandably seemed depressed after the death of her husband, the loss of her caregiving responsibilities, and moving into a new home. All of the siblings met to figure out how to help Mom feel more engaged with life again. Everyone agreed to be a part of a schedule which includes either taking her out or home with them on weekends. This plan has the added benefit of providing respite to the sibling Mom lives with.
They all talk frequently but when big decisions have to be made or disagreements arise they have a family meeting. From a distance, I have witnessed all of the changes they have had to work through. This road has not been easy for any of them. As a family they have maintained their close bond even when the distrubution of work has not always seemed equitable.
outside help might be needed
Looking for outside help is something to consider when family members are having trouble agreeing on the best course of action for a loved one. A Geriatric Care manager is someone who will advocate for your loved one and know how to find local services. The goal should always to reduce family stress.
Using a Geriatric Care manager could be invaluable if you are trying to oversee care from a distance. Having someone outside the family facilitate a family meeting might help keep the peace and keep the focus on what is important.
When holding a family meeting put together an agenda, it will help when emotions are high.
10 Tips for Holding a Family Meeting
• When its appropriate have everyone participate in the meeting
• Start with an update of any changes since last meeting
• Why was the meeting called, be specific
• Everyone should be encouraged to bring up feelings in terms
of how it affects them
• Give everyone a chance to lead/record the meeting
- Are there future plans including for holidays?
• Help each other resolve any issues.
- Financial issues will inevitably come up, be prepared♠
How about you, have you held family meetings or think you need to start? We would love to hear from you.