Just as we are different from each of our siblings, so too are our aging parents unique in their own way. Whether your parents bicker or get along well, if the time comes when they can no longer age in place, you and other family members will need to look at options for caring for them. In some cases you and your spouse may find yourselves face with the situation where each of you had an aging relative or two that you’ve suddenly become responsible for and that makes for an even more precarious balancing act between both sides of the family as well as your own family.
What do you do, and how can you balance the duties that come along with caring for two or more aging relatives? Here are some suggestions:
- Determine whether any of the seniors in your life can live alone. If being alone is possible with assistance, consider gifting them with a home medical alert device and a personal medical alert pendant as this can offer peace of mind to all involved as well as provide them access to immediate medical care if necessary.
- Would hiring an in-home part-time caregiver help relieve some of the caregiving burden upon you and your family members? Would your parents be amenable to having a “stranger” come into the house to help them out? This is something that would need to be discussed up front. Is there an outreach at the church or local religious association they attend that could provide assistance? Even getting help with cooking, cleaning, yard work or running errands can help relieve some of the burden of caregiving and allow you to simply sit and relax when you visit your parents and spend time with them rather than having to rush around to do the housework and errands.
- If you are caring for both parents and in-laws, how do you divide the time between them so there are no hurt feelings of being left out? This could come down to a matter of “who needs the most care.”
- You will have to learn to ask for help and delegate tasks. If you and your spouse are both engaged in caregiving and you have siblings in the area, you will need to pick up a phone and ask for help. You can’t do it all alone and you shouldn’t have to. Being an effective caregiver means knowing your limits and reaching out for help before you burn out.
- Even if you have healthy parents, but your spouse has parents in need of care, don’t neglect to spend time with your own, healthier relatives. Feelings of hurt and neglect can quickly boil over into a stressful family situation.
Being in a caregiving situation is stressful, but can be managed with time and effort and thoughtful care. Adding a second or third elderly relative into the mix will certainly add to the challenges. Make certain you take time to remember the care you’re giving may allow your parents to age in place for a longer period of time and use the time you’re spending with them to build memories for those times when they are no longer with you.