Family Caregiving: There is No Right Way

wrong way signThere is no one correct way to manage family caregiving.  This doesn’t stop people from occasionally getting pretty judgmental about how other people go about it.  The beauty of the internet is the support and information you can get…the downside is the ease of criticizing others and the anonymity that gives people an increased comfort level doing so.  Most caregiver communities online are supportive of each other and we think it’s great that caregivers can turn to others for input and encouragement, but we dislike seeing the judgmental comments that could induce guilt.

There’s no simple instruction manual for caregivers, though there are a lot of good sources of information that can guide you through the many aspects of caregiving.  You can find a few recommended favorites at Aging Wisely’s Recommended Reading for Caregivers.  There are a lot of great resources available on specific topics online too.  By reviewing a few of these you’ll quickly see how widely caregivers’ situations vary.  Here are just a few variables to any family caregiving situation:

  • Family relationship structure (what’s your role/position in the family?, who is involved?,  how many siblings do you have?)
  • History of family relationships (conflict, blended family, roles, etc.)
  • Diagnosis(es)
  • Nature of the care recipient’s needs (functional status, emotional needs, etc.)
  • Living situation (who lives where?, how far does the caregiver live from care recipient?)
  • Financial situation (of care recipient, caregiver, family)
  • Caregiver’s physical status and abilities
  • Caregiver’s work situation
  • Caregiver’s family situation

That is only the beginning of what makes each family’s caregiving situation unique.  The personalities involved are a huge factor in every aspect of caregiving.  Expectations also play a large role.

We talk to a lot of families about expectations and how they may evolve over time.  Here is an example story: Sally and Dan decide to move her Mom in to their home.  They sell Mom’s home and remodel the house to better fit her needs.  Everyone expects she will be cared for in the home until she dies.  Mom’s condition worsens and her memory becomes worse.  In the meantime, Dan and Sally work full time.  Their youngest child moves back in to the guest room after losing a job.  Sally is suffering from her own ill health and trying to cut back to working part-time, but it is becoming more and more dangerous for Mom to be left alone.  Mom has two major falls in a row.  Could the family have expected all of these factors?  How will all the different issues impact how they might need to modify their expectations?  Does this story sound familiar to you?

Here are some tips for approaching your unique family caregiving situation:

  • Consider seeking a professional consultation or assessment with a geriatric care manager.  Share the factors of your situation so that the care manager can give you an individualized set of recommendations and help you anticipate things you might not have considered.
  • Be careful about absolute statements, since you don’t know how your situation will change.  For example, you might want to reconsider saying “I will never let you go to a care facility”.  Sometimes the physical care or dementia care might be too much for you to handle or the financial situation may impact how care needs can be met.  Instead, discuss how your goal is to care for your loved one at home and seek out as much information as possible on how that can be accomplished.
  • Take into account the costs and realities of different options.  Can you quit your job to care for Mom and what will the long-term costs of that decision be?  How extensive will physical care or lifting become and will outside help be needed?  What problems might arise in caring for a loved one with dementia at home by yourself (for example, how will you handle wandering and other behavior issues)?  You might want to start by reviewing our free handout on budgeting and gathering resources for senior care:

Want to talk about your care situation and get personalized help?  Contact us online or at 727-447-5845 any time!