The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy states that “more than ever before, families are providing long-term care to older adults with limitations in the ability to perform tasks necessary for independent living. Nearly 25% of American households are providing care to people age 50 years and over. Families are the alternative foundation for a stressed healthcare system. Hospital stays are shorter than ever and family caregivers are often expected to do what healthcare professionals once did.”
Family caregivers take over various responsibilities for their elders. It may be just handling finances, running errands, going to doctor appointments or taking on full 24 hour care services. In most cases one sibling in the family will become the main caregiver, but most successful ventures are supported by the entire family.
There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. This may be true, but it takes a family to care for an aging parent. As seniors lose physical and cognitive function they become vulnerable and unable to manage their own care. Who better to know their needs and desires than their own children. Even if professional care givers are providing services, family involvement makes the difference in quality of life for their parents.
“If one family member has been designated caregiver other members can give support with respite care, transportation to doctors, etc., everyone needs to be aware of all that is needed and be in total agreement to do it.” ” – The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning
Experience has shown that even families that are close can quickly grow angry, jealous and hostile towards each other when an aging parent begins to need long term care. If a sibling moves into the parent’s home, others can easily be suspicious of ulterior motives and fear to lose their inheritance. On the other hand, the child doing the entire care taking becomes bitter and feels there is no support or help from siblings.
One example of a family misunderstanding is that of a brother accusing his sister of stealing all of the money from the sale of his parent’s home.
Karen, who was a single mom with two children, moved in with her parents when her father had a stroke to help her mother take care of him. Her mother was also disabled. Needing money to pay for a home care service, Karen helped her mother do a reverse mortgage on the home, which gave the needed funds. If communication had been open and Karen’s brother had known the need and been involved with his parents care, he would not have reacted so negatively when he eventually found out about the reverse mortgage.
Every family is different. Some families are close and some have never been compatible. If your communication is strained, consider having a professional mediator present at a family meeting. The mediator will be able to keep things calm and running smoothly and help work out each persons concern.
Family matters. The experience of working together for their parents care can give aging parents and family members a peaceful, memorable experience.