Sharing Is Caring: Here's How Families Can Allocate Caregiving Responsibilities
Caregiving is on the rise. Data from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP's 2020 report “Caregiving in the U.S.” reveals there are approximately 53 million caregivers in the United States, a number that has increased by 9.5 million since 2015. This demonstrates that increasing numbers of people are stepping up to provide the care needed to family, friends, and loved ones who need assistance.
It can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but it's not without its fair share of challenges. That's why it's so important for caregivers to have a strong support system while taking care of older parents and loved ones struggling with illness. Sharing the load among other family members reduces the stress on any one person, allowing everyone to take an active role and support each other in addition to their loved ones. Here's how to talk to siblings about your aging parents and how to share the load.
Create Your Team
Before allocating parent care duties and tasks, the family needs to have a frank conversation about what's going on and how you all need to come together to move forward. When possible, include the care recipient in the mix to empower that person and get firsthand knowledge of his or her feelings, concerns, and how he or she would like to be helped. Together, you can start planning how you'll execute the tasks and responsibilities.
Learn All You Can
It's not always easy to talk to siblings about aging parents or loved ones struggling with illness or medical conditions but it is necessary. Every family member should have a solid understanding of the family member's limitations and capabilities along with relevant information about the illness or disability, treatments, medications, and other care details. The more you know and the more you're all on the same page, the less anxiety and friction you're likely to experience during your caregiving journey.
Define Everyone's Roles
Caregiving can be stressful, and it also presents an opportunity for resentments and arguments to arise. Without clearly defining the family's expectations and each person's role in providing care, it's all too easy for one person to end up shouldering all the work. Ideally, you'll be able to allocate responsibilities to play off one another's strengths. For example, if one sibling is great with finances, he might take over balancing accounts and paying bills. Perhaps someone else is great with keeping everyone updated, and she can be the communications point person. Clearly defining who will do what can go a long way to preventing future conflict.
Consider Individual Limitations
While the family is considering how to allocate responsibilities, each person should be open and honest about his or her own limitations. Family members should ask themselves about how they'll be able to fit caregiving responsibilities into their schedules and how frequently they'll be able to check in or visit their family member. Those who live close will likely take on the role of primary caregivers. But those who are farther away can still take a share of the load by performing tasks like paying bills, organizing communications, and providing respite care to give primary caregivers a break.
Work Together, Get Help When Needed
Teamwork is at the heart of successful parent care and caregiving in general. Communicate clearly and often to foster the spirit of teamwork and to reassess everyone's roles and responsibilities as needed. Additionally, it's important to build a support system outside of the family. Caregiver support groups are one option. Your family member's doctors are a valuable part of your team. Medical professionals can provide sound advice about what to expect in the future, how to proceed in the present, and options regarding treatments.
Caregiving is an emotional journey for everyone involved. Lean on each other and encourage everyone to take time for themselves to help balance the feelings, emotions, and stress you're all experiencing. No matter what each person's role is, make sure that person takes time to connect with your shared loved one and the rest of the family.