When you embark on caring for a loved one it’s natural to want to focus on the care recipient. What many new caregivers don’t foresee is the impact a caregiving role has on other relationships, whether with a spouse, siblings or other family members and friends. While caregiving can bring family members closer together and offer wonderful moments for creating lasting memories, it can also cause strife and discord. It’s almost guaranteed that there will be times when you disagree with the other caregivers — or even the care recipient — on the best course of action.
So first things first: Set the stage with the senior needing care. If this is your parent, it may feel awkward — like your roles have reversed and you’re now acting as the parent. In fact, according to a 2015 AARP survey, 49% of caregivers are caring for a parent or parent-in-law. But there’s a difference between being a care partner and a care enforcer. Here are a few tips to ensure that seniors and their caregivers all feel respected and that you can keep tensions at bay.
- Have important conversations early. Begin talking before something happens that forces action, so you can be well prepared — and on the same page with everyone — at the time of need. Also, have these conversations more than once. Make sure to ask for a senior’s advance directives and other important legal documents so that you can best represent their wishes if necessary down the line.
- Set a care budget and stick to it. It’s not uncommon for siblings and other caregivers to disagree over money — after all, this is a common trouble area in so many parts of life, so it’s not hard to imagine it coming up in the caregiving world as well. To minimize these scuffles, figure out what your parent can afford, and how much will have to be supplemented by family members. Then write it all down and stick as close to the budget as you can, or amend as needed with everyone’s buy-in along the way.
- Don’t tell a senior what to do. It’s important to respect a senior’s autonomy and independence unless they are truly endangering themselves or others. Aging can be a difficult process and may make seniors feel vulnerable, so don’t add to that by forcing decisions upon them. If they are resistant to help, try to understand why and work with them on alternative solutions that feel good to everyone.