Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
1870 50th St E #7, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55077
(651) 371-5882
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How Siblings Can Successfully Coordinate Caregiving for Elderly Parents

Comfort Keepers In-Home Care in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.

How Siblings Can Successfully Coordinate Caregiving for Elderly Parents

By the year 2050, an estimated 80 million Americans will be age 65 or older. Much of this explosion in the population of seniors can be attributed to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation (generally defined as individuals born between 1946 and 1964), one of the largest generational cohorts.

This fact has huge implications for the children and grandchildren of Baby Boomers, many of whom will face the question of how to coordinate assistance and care for their aging relatives. Making decisions for and with one's parents can be difficult, but family dynamics are sometimes strained when siblings and other relatives must share caregiving duties. Although it is widely assumed that individuals with more children and relatives will receive more assistance, this is not always the case. The strain of caregiving, even when done as members of a family team, can often lead to destroyed family ties and estranged relationships.

In order to successfully coordinate caregiving for elderly parents, siblings and other caregiving groups should follow three basic guidelines.

Communication is key

Siblings and other relatives can be useful resources and helpers for elderly parents, but the nature of their long-term relationships can come with some built-in difficulties. By the time siblings find themselves providing care for elderly relatives, they have had a lifetime of making and following set communication patterns. Not all of these patterns are healthy or effective.

Consider your relationships with your siblings. Where do family members live? Do all siblings share the same goals when caring for their parents? Are there some siblings who promise much but deliver little? Do some siblings take the lead in making decisions (while also feeling frustrated that they have to "take charge"), while others follow more dominant individuals (while also feeling frustrated that they never have any say)? Certainly not least, what are siblings' preferred actual means of communication? Do some siblings want to meet in person or discuss things on the phone or via conference calls, while others simply want to send off texts or emails?

Before taking on the responsibility of caring for or making decisions for elderly relatives, all siblings should take a long hard look at their own communication preferences. They should honestly evaluate their relationships with one another and their boundaries for how much and what kind of caregiving they commit to. Siblings should then strive to communicate with one another as openly and truthfully as they can, through any communication that proves the most effective.

This will require flexibility and understanding. Now is not the time to refresh old arguments or start new ones about whose communication and caregiving skills are the best. Now is the time to focus on what care your parent or elderly relative needs and try to work effectively with the group to provide that care.

Information is power

Many individuals who are caring for older relatives are also in the time of life when they are dealing with serious career demands, caring for their own children or other relatives, navigating relationship changes like empty-nest syndrome and divorces, and navigating their own health challenges.

Caregiving for the elderly or even providing short-term rehabilitation help for aging parents is time-consuming and exhausting. When such tasks are added onto siblings' already full workloads, they can be overwhelming. 

Although it is not always possible, it is best to research caregiving options and facilities well before your loved one requires them. Older parents are often extremely hostile to discussing long-term care plans; for many Baby Boomers, the "plan" is simply the stated desire to age in place or be able to die while still living in their own homes. This is not always realistic.

Even if your parent is not amenable to a discussion about where and how they will receive increasing levels of support with activities of daily living, siblings and caregiving teams will have to discuss some of the options among themselves. They should become familiar with the differences (and different requirements for, including powers of attorney that are activated or not) between assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, and hospice or palliative care. Depending on where relatives live, their families should also tour as many available senior communities and facilities as possible. Touring facilities and learning what questions to ask -- before families are desperate to help their relatives find a place in one -- can be invaluable.

Set boundaries sooner rather than later

The importance of having and stating personal boundaries was already covered in the suggestion to follow good communication habits, but it's so important that it's worth a section of its own.

Caregiving for an elderly parent or loved one can challenge people in ways they would never have imagined. As individuals age, they face physical challenges such as low vision (through macular degeneration, for example), decreased mobility (and the need for aids such as canes, walkers, and mobility scooters), and increasing incontinence problems, to name but a few. They can also face cognitive decline, which can range from age-related forgetfulness to Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia that can change their personalities and even cause them to forget who their family members are.

All of these issues present specialized challenges for family caregivers, who may have no experience caring for other people's physical needs or mental health issues, this process can be very hard to understand and perform. Many caregivers learn to do things they would never have thought possible and go on to fulfill a range of duties faithfully and well.

For some, though, such challenges might be overwhelming. Just because you are responsible for caring for another person does not mean you possess the skills or desire to do so. For the safety and comfort of the person you are helping, you owe it to yourself and others to carefully consider what you feel you can learn and do and what you can't. If you are not comfortable helping a person with at-home medical tests or medication dosing, you need to be upfront about that with other members of your caregiving team. Likewise, if you know you will struggle with empathy and patience when dealing with a person with sundowning or other disruptive symptoms, you should put that information on that table in the very beginning.

The best part of being part of a sibling group or caregiving team is that you can provide comfort and strength, and help for one another. In order to achieve that, however, each individual on the team must be willing to learn the best ways to communicate with one another, be prepared to do the research and the work involved with finding the best caregiving situation for an elderly loved one, and be honest about their own boundaries.

Comfort Keepers Can Help

It is OK to ask for help, and for some family caregivers seeking professional in-home care in Inver Grove Heights and the surrounding area is the best option. Comfort Keepers is a leading provider of in-home care and an advocate for seniors and their families in the community. From personal care to companion care, Comfort Keepers can help.