Caregivers In The Family

By Harmony Home Health

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by Linda Burhans

Very likely we find that caregivers are family members. These are people who provide care without pay out of love, respect, responsibility, duty, etc.  Here are a few examples of the types of roles a caregiver may play in the family:

  • Caring for a spouse
  • Caring for an elderly parent
  • Caring for a sibling
  • Caring for extended family
  • Caring for a grandparent
  • Caring for grandchildren

Caregiving may fall on one or two people depending on geographic location and availability.  Families can become stressed in this difficult situation.  Let’s take a look at what they can do to help relieve that stress.

Sharing the Responsibility

This is where things can get sticky.  Most of us lead busy lives.  There are kids, spouses, careers, homes, and other activities that fill our days.  When the need arises for a family member to be cared for, it can literally tear a family apart trying to come up with a workable solution.

The need for a caregiver is typically a delicate situation.  Often, a family friend or a doctor will be the first to contact a family member they know is close with the person needing care.  It is often unusual for the person needing care to contact their family directly.  They will likely not want to be a burden.  Once you receive the call, it is time for a family meeting.

Get as many family members together as you can to find out what is going on.  At this point, decisions will need to be made about continuity of care for your loved one.  Here is where you might decide on hiring care or looking after them yourself.  There are many options available, including in-home care and assisted living.  Many in need of care are afraid they will be relegated to a tiny room in a nursing home. That is very often not needed.  As a matter of fact, many people are able to stay in their own homes and a  nursing home is only needed when 24 hour medical care is required.

Sharing the responsibility and decision making also involves your loved one.  They don’t want to sit on the sidelines in their own lives or be treated like a child.  Ask them how they would like to see their care handled.  Encourage them to be open and candid with you about their choices, and listen to their desires and their concerns.

No one wants to burden someone they love with their care.  Remind your loved one that if the situation were reversed, they would take care of you.  When you love someone, care is not a burden.  Proper communication of these feelings is the key to resolving such touchy issues.  Once resolved, the only issue on the table will be the care, which is as it should be.

Family caregiving brings with it a unique set of circumstances. Approach the family with openness and love, and all these issues during this difficult time will be more easily resolved.

Linda Burhans is a keynote speaker, best-selling author and caregiver advocate with Harmony Home Health. To find a support group near you facilitated by Linda, go to our Calendar of Events, Support Groups, and Workshops.


1 Comment
  1. Sandara says:

    I was my mother’s prarmiy caregiver to Alzheimer’s. And if I had heard someone suggest that I embrace Alzheimer’s while I was in the thick of care giving trenches, I would have quickly dismissed the advice as superficial and one-dimensional. But as a recovering caregiver, I realize the power of that statement. Unintentionally and unrehearsed, I did embrace Alzheimer’s during the early stages of this journey, and that very act fundamentally defined my experience, converting an otherwise stressful journey into a mindful and meaningful series of life lessons.In the beginning I’ll admit that I was afraid of the disease because I didn’t want to lose my mother to the tangles of this fatal disease. I simply wasn’t emotionally prepared to let that happen because it meant letting her go.So I did my best to keep connected to her, by doing what I could. I prepared homemade, single-portioned meals to fill her refrigerator. If she was going to lose her mind, I thought, let it happen on a full stomach. At the very least, it made me feel like I was still in charge. But during those quiet moments when truth becomes easier to swallow, I would admit to myself that my mother was falling apart before my very eyes and it would put me into a panic-stricken tailspin. Like anything in life, the more I looked truth in the eye, the less panic I felt.Gradually I stopped trying to teach her how to use the TV remote, heat up leftovers in a microwave, and hold a telephone. I stopped trying to squeeze her back into the reality that we had once shared because that approach ended up being a source of aggravation to us both. By leaving the ‘denial’ stage and embracing Alzheimer’s, I liberated myself from the fear that Alzheimer’s would steal my mother’s love. And if I still felt unsure or afraid of my mother’s disease, I would remind myself that ‘when life hands you Alzheimer’s, embrace it.Celia PomerantzAlzheimer’s: A Mother Daughter Journey

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