Share the Care or Pull Out Your Hair

Many families will be gathering for the holidays. This is a perfect time to talk with your siblings about sharing the care for aging parents – before anyone loses more hair.

Often, families are spread out geographically with one sibling usually living close to the parents and others living farther away. Many of the responsibilities of eldercare fall to the sibling who lives closest. This can leave a heavy burden (or at least feel like a heavy burden) on the closest. Trust me, if you are this person, you often want to run away. At least you want to pull your hair out at times!

It doesn’t have to be that way, however! You can share the care in many ways. The most important factor is communication. Talk about it! (While you are talking or listening, be THINKING OUT OF THE BOX – how can I help or how can we share this?)

Here are some suggestions for sharing the care.

The family member living the closest doesn’t have to do everything. Decide what needs to be done and who is the best person for that job.

You can sort responsibilities by area of expertise. The family member with the expertise in the area of need should be the one who does that job.

Examples of this kind of work assignment:

  • Attorneys or legal professionals can handle the legal paperwork and make sure all of it is up-to-date and keep the copies needed. They can handle negotiations for anything to be purchased or sold. They can negotiate contracts with home health agencies, residence facilities or other jobs where a legal background is helpful.
  • Insurance professionals can review policies, make sure they are appropriate for the situation and make any changes necessary.
  • Family members working in healthcare can be the contact for the parent’s doctors and care providers. They can act as the consolidator and coordinator of all the medical care needed. They might be the ones to attend doctor visits as well.
  • Marketers and sales folks can help sell any real estate holdings, personal property or belongings. They can also help evaluate costs and prices of services and housing for elders.
  • Detail-oriented family members can do all the paperwork (oh, there’s plenty of that!). Big picture folks can help plan. People great at tactics and execution can do the follow-through.
  • You get the idea!

You can also sort the care by proximity. The family member who lives closest does the work that requires being with or near the parent. The siblings living farther away can do jobs over the phone or Internet. They can also handle projects via mail.

Examples of this kind of assignment:

  • Siblings living farther away can handle paying the bills, dealing with subscriptions or renewals, charity donations and ordering medications.
  • Siblings living close can handle grocery shopping, picking up medications, shuttling to medical appointments, house maintenance.

The sibling living closest to parents can do the legwork more easily than the ones living farther away. The ones living away can do many things like ordering, paying, coordinating that the sibling closest can pick up, drop off or finish. Think of it as a relay.

If you do nothing else, say thank you to the one doing the most work. A bit of gratitude goes a long way. Get them a massage, order a flower arrangement, offer to come in town when they take a vacation. Think of ways that you can back them up. The burdens seem lighter when others share in the care – even if it is just moral support.

The main point to remember – no one sibling or group of siblings drew a short straw for eldercare. This is a family responsibility and should be handled jointly by the family. EVERYONE HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN ELDERCARE!

These are your closest family members – they will still be your closest family members when your parents have gone to glory. Keep the lines of communication open and the love flowing.

Now, for that second piece of pie….

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