In many cases, it is necessary for an adult child to become the main caregiver when one or both parents become elderly and are no longer able to care for themselves. However, the entire family should be involved in sharing the time and expense related to in-home caregiving. In fact, splitting up all of the necessary responsibilities such as preparing meals and handling medical, financial and legal issues is one of the best ways to ensure that your loved one’s affairs are properly handled.
How Can I Get the Entire Family Involved?
Over the next few years, baby boomers will represent a large part of the aging population and will be classified as senior citizens making caregiving a very important family decision. Deciding between siblings who should become the primary caregiver of elderly parents can be very stressful indeed. Keep in mind that it can become emotionally and financially draining to take on the caregiver role alone, and this will also impact your ability to give your parents the attention and care they deserve. If they have specific dietary needs, medical issues, or are disabled in any way, caregiving can be particularly cumbersome. If you have been chosen as the primary caregiver, you should definitely encourage your siblings’ participation in creating a schedule that will require everyone to pitch in. In order to fairly share the load it is best to simply be upfront and honest with your siblings on why it is so important for them to help. It is also a good idea for the main caregiver to be the person who sets up schedules and delegates responsibilities to other family members based on their specific skill set. For example, if you have a sister who works at a law firm, it definitely makes the most sense for her to handle legal issues.
If possible, one or more siblings should be responsible for each of these key areas:
- Relocation – If all of the siblings have moved out of town and away from the family home, caregiving from afar can be difficult at best. Before moving your parents, it is a good idea to spend as much time as possible with them in their own home, so you can determine how well they are doing living alone. For instance, my mother, now a retired school teacher, would visit her mother during summer breaks. This allowed her to check up on my grandmother (without it being too obvious) and take care of any business previously neglected. Mom would go over bank statements, spring clean and generally see how well my grandmother was doing living independently. It shouldn’t be hard for siblings to create a schedule to visit parents, either during holidays or just because.
- Medical – Hopefully your parents have been forthcoming regarding any health issues they have. The sibling responsible for this will need to be aware of health insurance, who the doctors are, what the prognosis is, and what the recommendations are, including any prescriptions. It can be difficult for anyone to deal with a disability, but this problem can be exacerbated by age. Assisting a parent with a disability will require you to help them in several ways, including taking them to medical appointments and helping them get qualified for financial assistance. Keep in mind that filing for disability insurance is one of the best ways to ensure that your parent’s bills will be paid and other essential needs met. Unfortunately, it is common for disability claims to be denied the first time, so be prepared to help your parent go through the appeals process. Finding helpful legal tips on informative sites such as www.disabilitydenials.com is a simple first step.
- Financial – It is difficult for many people to make someone else privy to their financial affairs, but this is not a time for secrecy. It will be important for the more financially savvy sibling to have knowledge of all of the accounts (e.g. savings, checking, IRA, etc.) and eventually become a co-signer on those accounts. You may also have to decide if a reverse mortgage makes sense or if it is time to sell. Verify and monitor any pension checks, and make sure insurance policies are needed and up to date. Take advantage of as many free services as possible including things like Meals on Wheels and discounted paratransit public transportation.
- Fun – While caring for aged or disabled parents, it will be very important for the caregivers to retain as close to a semblance of their previous life as possible. Don’t neglect other family members, especially your spouse. If the parents primarily live with one sibling, the others should be prepared to rotate spending the night so the primary caregiver can have a date night or even go out of town for a few days. Also, keep your parents as active as possible by taking them to the local senior center. My mother would take my grandmother there during “spa days” when there were nail technicians on hand to offer manicures and pedicures, as well as massage therapists that specialize in geriatric care.
Due to logistics or other obstacles, it may be impossible to include all siblings in the caregiving but, ultimately, bringing your entire family together to assist your parents is definitely the best way to make sure that everything gets taken care of. Additionally, delegating responsibilities to your siblings will keep everyone connected throughout the entire process, and this can provide all of you with an increased bond. However, it is vital to place an emphasis on communication so that nothing important falls through the cracks.
Sylvia Burley is a freelance writer whose grandmother was lovingly cared for by a community of people in her native Greenville, Mississippi hometown and her adopted home state of Massachusetts, until her death last year. She found help from resources such as www.disabilitydenials.com to assist with her family’s needs during these times.
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