Few experiences in life are more difficult than caring for a loved one who is in mental decline or who requires long-term care. Without support, family caregivers (most of whom are untrained) can become overwhelmed, angry, resentful, depressed, and even immobilized, which can make them a liability, not an asset, to the person in their care.
Because each situation is unique, there are no hard and fast rules about the kind of support a caregiver receives – only that he or she has enough support to prevent them from burning out. That may mean hiring a therapist to provide perspective and a confidential outlet to discuss difficult family matters. Or, maybe it’s as simple as engaging a relative or family friend to sit with the loved one for a few hours a week to allow the primary caregiver a breather.
And, if a family cannot agree on ways to provide the caregiver support, it is wise to call in an objective third party to assess the situation and recommend a path forward. Working with a local company that provides guidance, emotional support, and resources to help clients through times of adjustment and transition can be very helpful.
For example, Sylvia’s elderly mother suffered from severe dementia and had just suffered a major fall. While Sylvia and her five siblings agreed that their mother was no longer able to live alone in her home, they couldn’t come together on a solution. One sibling wanted to take her into their home; another wanted their mother in assisted living; another didn’t want their mother with the other sibling; one was afraid another sibling would spend all of their mother’s money if he had access to it, and on and on. On top of that, their mother didn’t want to leave home.
We met with the family several times, and ultimately, assigned each sibling a distinct role. One was in charge of the mother’s finances with input from a financial professional; two took her to doctor appointments; one child let her live with his family, while another provided that brother with respite care and served as back-up if the living arrangements didn’t work out; and the sixth sibling was responsible for socializing with their mother regularly.
With each sibling undertaking a separate responsibility, everyone was able to contribute to their mother’s care without becoming overburdened. Each had authority over a certain aspect of her care, and they could avoid stepping on each other’s toes because their spheres of duty only intersected in very general terms.
While life’s transitions are, for many, overwhelming, terrifying and anxiety-provoking – especially when it comes to handling major life changes for a loved one with special needs – you don’t have to navigate the minefield of caregiving, paperwork, benefits, and subsidies alone. Rely on family members and professionals to support you.