Asking for help is not something that everyone is comfortable doing. Even if you’re comfortable asking for it, there are some people in your family who will simply not hear what you’re saying.
When it comes to being a caregiver, it is easy to take on too much especially if you’re in the Sandwich Generation (those caregivers that are caring for their own families while caring for aging parents). It is easy to suffer caregiver burnout and as such it’s crucial that steps be taken to relieve some of the burdens prior to that happening.
How can you ask your family members to become involved in the tasks of caring for aging parents? Here are some tips:
- Ask for help prior to needing it. Set up a time to speak with all of your family members at one time, if possible, to solicit help. Ask for their ideas on how the tasks can be more evenly divided. Do you have a sibling that would be happy to do yard work but really doesn’t want to have to cook, clean or pay your parent’s bills? Then take him up on the offer of the yard work. Utilize the strengths of each of your family members as a way to help you get back some of your own time and be better able to care for yourself and your family.
- Don’t start the conversation with accusations of who’s doing more than someone else. If possible come prepared with a list of the items you, as the caregiver, are currently responsible for. Being armed with a detailed list makes it easier to determine who can help with what and also makes certain that major as well as minor tasks are accounted for. Use the meeting time as a way to come together for a mutually beneficial solution for your parents not as a finger pointing session.
- Be prepared for push back from siblings and be prepared for someone to bring up the idea of “putting mom and dad in a home.” These are sometimes natural inclinations when faced with elder care. If your parents are still able to live independently, that should be encouraged. If your parents are on the borderline of being able to age in place, consider gifting them with a home medical monitoring device and a personal alert pendant; this is a way to provide peace of mind to all involved in the event of a trip or fall or other medical emergency. Perhaps the family will need to come up with a plan for hiring a personal care aid, or a housekeeper or even someone to help with meal preparation or driving them to doctor’s appointments. Once you know what your options are, you can better plan.
Even though you may be facing burnout as a caregiver, you still need to approach the meeting with siblings with focus on helping mom and dad in addition to relieving some of your burden. Because everyone in the family is working toward the same ultimate goal – caring for your parents – the conversation should flow smoothly. If not, here are some tips on how to negotiate:
- Be prepared with what needs to be done
- Don’t be accusatory
- Present the problem as one that is shared by all family members
- Ask for suggestions other than ones you may have posed
- Be flexible in addressing issues and don’t feel you need to provide answers to all of the tasks that need addressing. Getting suggestions from family members might just open the door to a solution no one had thought of previously
Don’t forget to invite mom and dad to the conversation and get their input on the tasks they feel they can take on themselves, and those for which they need assistance.