We may not always like the choices our families make, but we always love them.

What is the most important asset in your life? Your home, car or 401K? We might not initially think of them on this list, but most people would agree that their family is their most valuable asset. They’re the thing that would hurt the most to lose, that we worry about protecting and that provides life’s greatest riches.

We know not every family has solid relationships. And, unfortunately, stressful times can enhance existing problems. If your family relationships are strained, it’s often helpful to talk to a professional for counseling and support. Also, it is even more essential to take planning steps.

We’ll share ways to protect your greatest asset during the challenges of aging and eldercare.

Myths and Misnomers about Family Caregiving

But first, let’s break down a couple aspects of family caregiving that we often find are misunderstood.

We occasionally hear “families don’t take care of their elders” (or some version, such as families just “put loved ones in facilities nowadays”). Working with families every day, we see just the opposite. And, the stats back up our anecdotal evidence. About 44 million Americans provide 37 billion hours of unpaid, “informal” care each year for adult family members and friends. The value of services provided by informal caregivers has steadily increased over the last decade, estimated at $470 billion in 2013. That number exceeded the value of paid home care and total Medicaid spending in the same year.

A common misnomer about family caregiving is the concept of role reversal. People sometimes talk about “parenting their parent”. We think it’s important to distinguish that while roles change, they do not reverse. You may be a caregiver doing many nurturing tasks, but you don’t become the parent. Your parents don’t want to be thought of or treated like children. We know this is said innocently, but it minimizes the special challenges and nuances of caregiving for a parent. Our care managers often help adult children as they grapple with this role and wonder if they’re doing the right thing. It can be a trickier path to navigate than being a parent because of the relationship history. And, you often find less ready advice and support from friends and those around you.

Family Caregiving Considerations

This brings us to some key considerations in family caregiving. We hope these considerations and our related advice will help you protect and nurture your greatest asset.

Loving and Supporting Family, Even When We Don’t Like Their Choices

We may get frustrated by choices our elders make. However, being old doesn’t mean they suddenly can’t make decisions (even bad ones). We aren’t their parents and we can’t simply ground them for not listening. Despite what you hear, wisdom doesn’t automatically come with age. And, we have to remember our perspective and priorities might be vastly different.

So, that leaves many families wondering, “What can I do?” They don’t want to see Mom hurt or Dad lonely and isolated. And, many times they find they’re caught up in a cycle of crises. As a start, check out our experts’ tips when your parent won’t accept the help you think they need.

We recommend initiating conversations about aging planning in advance. Ask questions and take time to listen. Be aware of how you’re speaking and reacting. No one wants to feel old and helpless, or ignored. Consider a care management consultation. Ensure you’ve taken planning steps that will help you avoid, or better manage, crises. We’ve put together key steps for you in our comprehensive aging wisely checklist. Click Here to get your copy.

Time is Precious

When it comes to nurturing your most valuable asset, family relationships thrive on time. As our loved ones age, time becomes a limited resource. Too often, we find ourselves so busy with tasks we barely have time to just visit. If you find that’s the case, check out other families’ stories and resources they found to help.

With so few years potentially left together, you don’t want to spend them being a stressed out caregiver. Planning ahead means avoiding a lot of the pitfalls. It’s human nature to downplay problems, but ignoring warning signs will only make the situation worse. Perhaps most importantly, getting the right care team in place gives everyone space and time. It can be the biggest factor in keeping family relationships intact. And, it can help you think more long-term when you aren’t constantly putting out fires.

Our team covered some of our top tips on maintaining parent-child relationships here too. It would be awful to look back after our parents are gone and think about fighting over minor things. Sometimes in the stress of the moment everything feels urgent. It can be hard to know what to let go of and what to prioritize. It really helps to have a neutral sounding board at those times.

Helping You with What’s Most Valued and Valuable

We hope these ideas help you to protect your most valuable asset. If you’re one of the 44 million+ family caregivers, we thank you for all you do. EasyLiving is dedicated to supporting your invaluable work with services and educational resources.

Whether you are struggling with damaged family relationships, hoping to keep them intact with planning, facing a crisis or just have a question, we welcome your call (727-447-5845). You can also sign up to have our latest tips delivered right to your inbox. And, we’d love to have you join us in the Caregivers Community.